No sign of thaw in Syrian talks as U.N. envoy offers working paper | Reuters

By Stephanie Nebehay and John Irish | GENEVA GENEVA U.N.

Reuters February 25, 2017 00:30:09 IST
No sign of thaw in Syrian talks as U.N. envoy offers working paper
| Reuters

No sign of thaw in Syrian talks as UN envoy offers working paper

By Stephanie Nebehay and John Irish

GENEVA U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura handed a working paper on procedural issues to delegations at Syrian peace talks on Friday, but there appeared little prospect of them meeting directly soon.Opposing sides in the war came face-to-face at the U.N. for the first time in three years at an opening ceremony on Thursday, to hear mediator Staffan de Mistura urge them to cooperate. Tensions were palpable among participants. [L8N1G86KK] De Mistura, looking to lay the foundations for negotiations to end the six-year-old conflict, held bilateral meetings with the delegations on Friday to establish a plan for talks that could run into early March.In a short statement to reporters after more than two hours of discussions with the U.N. envoy, the government's chief negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari said they had discussed only the format for the coming days."At the end of the meeting de Mistura gave us a paper and we agreed to study this paper. We shall inform him of our position," he said.He corrected an interpreter who described it as a "document", and gave no details of what it said. He took no questions.

The opposition delegation, which is not fully under one umbrella, said it had also received the paper."There is a paper about the procedural issues and some ideas to begin the political process," lead negotiator Nasr al-Hariri told reporters.Hariri stressed the opposition's priority was to begin negotiations on a political transitional governing body, suggesting it would not back down on its demands that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down."We have heard from Mr de Mistura positive ideas and suggestions, I believe he is more enthusiastic to be engaged seriously in political transition," he said.

"Political transition" is a phrase used by the opposition to mean a removal of Assad or at least an erosion of his powers. His government has rejected any suggestion that it could be on the table, and at previous peace talks his negotiators have tried to steer away from it.De Mistura's chief of staff Michael Contet said the talks would centre on U.N. Security Council resolution 2254, which calls for a new constitution, U.N.-supervised elections and transparent and accountable governance."It will be a long, difficult process and an early public breakthrough should not be expected," he told reporters.

He added that it appeared difficult for now to bring the two sides face to face.At the last Geneva talks, 10 months ago, de Mistura had to shuttle between the parties who never met in the same room. The negotiations were suspended as the war escalated."Staffan said recently it was his ambition to have direct talks, but I can't see that happening," a senior Western diplomat said of the new Geneva initiative."My guess is it will be like last year, proximity talks." (Additional reporting by Tom Miles, Yara Abi Nader and Laila Bassam; Editing by Andrew Roche)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:


also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.