Syria peace talks not making much progress, envoy says

Syria peace talks not making much progress, envoy says

PanARMENIAN.Net - Peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition are not making much progress, the international mediator said on Tuesday, Feb 11, after a face-to-face meeting of the warring parties in Geneva that both sides called fruitless, Reuters reported.

Negotiations intended to end Syria's war began with a week-long session last month and have resumed this week in Geneva. There had been hopes for Tuesday's talks after they began with a minute's silence for the 130,000 people killed since the conflict began.

But Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran diplomat charged with running the internationally sponsored talks, told a news conference the second round so far was as "laborious" as the first. "We are not making much progress," he said.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Tuesday was a "lost day" while opposition spokesman Louay Safi said "no progress" had been made.

The talks have been held up over the agenda, with the opposition wanting first to discuss plans for a transitional government, and the government insisting the first issue must be fighting terrorism - a word it uses for all armed rebels.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, Brahimi had proposed that they use Tuesday to discuss ending the violence and Wednesday to raise formation of a transitional governing body. But both sides said the agenda had still not been agreed.

"Today was another lost day because the representatives of the Coalition insisted that there is no terrorism in Syria," Mekdad said of the opposition stance.

National Coalition spokesman Safi said: "It is obvious the regime is stalling and still believes in a military solution."

The opposition believes a transitional administration must exclude Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The government will not discuss his leaving. A statement from the Coalition said the session was very tense and accused the government of attempting to stall.

At a news briefing in Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said no one had expected the talks to be easy.

"We don't expect a major breakthrough this week. And what we believe we need to continue to do is press the regime, gather the international community, press the regime to engage more seriously in this process," Psaki said.

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