Geneva: The United Nations mediator for Syria announced a “temporary pause” on Wednesday suspending the talks in Geneva between the opposition and the government for three weeks because of lack of progress.
Staffan de Mistura has been trying to blandish President Bashar al-Assad’s government and opposition forces to discuss and put to an end to the five years of war which have killed at least 250,000 people and sent another four million into exile.
Staffan de Mistura said. “I have concluded frankly that after the first week of preparatory talks there is more work to be done, not only by us but the stakeholders.”
He said.”I have indicated from the first day I won’t talk for the sake of talking. I therefore have taken the decision to bring a temporary pause. It is not the end or the failure of the talks”.
“Both sides indicated they are interested in having the political process started. I have already fixed a date for the next talks of 25th February.”
Mr. de Mistura has taken this action after a series of separate preliminary discussions with a Syrian government delegation and members of the opposition’s Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee e (HNC) failed to find a sufficient basis for indirect negotiations.
“I’m not frustrated, I’m not disappointed,” Mr. de Mistura said, “you have to be determined and realistic.
The opposition was also threatening to walk out of the talks if the airstrikes did not stop and if the government does not lift the siege it says is preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in rebel-held areas.
Riad Hijab, a member of the negotiations council, announced that the delegation would leave and not come back until there was a change on the ground and an end to ongoing air strikes.
He said.”The opposition will only talk about a ceasefire when there is a political transition that does not involve Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” he said, adding that Russian forces in support of Mr. Assad had struck the northern city of Aleppo the day before.“Assad and his allies have intensified their shelling to coincide with the launch of the Geneva meeting.”
The U.S. blamed the pause in peace talks on Russian airstrikes that disrupted humanitarian aid to Syrians.
The opposition described this delay as unprecedented. Mr. de Mistura’s inability to make headway with the government delegation on humanitarian issues came as a major offensive by government forces around the northern city of Aleppo.