Syria threatens to leave peace talks

Parties due to hold separate meetings with UN delegates in first peace talks on Syria

Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moualem, head of a Syrian government delegation, arrives for a meeting with UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi at a UN office in Genevatoday. Photograph: Jamal Saidi/Reuters

Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moualem, head of a Syrian government delegation, arrives for a meeting with UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi at a UN office in Genevatoday. Photograph: Jamal Saidi/Reuters

Fri, Jan 24, 2014, 14:51

The Syrian government delegation at peace negotiations in Geneva will leave tomorrow if “serious talks” do not start, according to reports.

State TV said Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Moallem gave a tight deadline to the UN mediator for talks that have struggled to get off the ground, hours after the UN said the Western-backed opposition and the government delegation would not meet face-to-face as originally hoped.

Mr Al-Moallem and his delegation met UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi today.

Syrian TV said Mr al-Moallem told Mr Brahimi that if “serious talks don’t begin Saturday, the official Syrian delegation will have to leave because the other party is not serious or ready.”

Mr Brahimi and a Syrian government delegation met today at the United Nations in Geneva and the mediator is due to meet the Syrian opposition delegation later on. State television said the meeting was characterised by a “positive atmosphere”.

Today was intended to be the first time since the uprising against president Bashar Assad began that the two sides would sit down for direct negotiations — peace talks that have been on the verge of falling apart since they were first floated in 2012.

More than 100,000 people have died since the uprising against the Assad regime began in 2011.

State television quoted Mr Brahimi as describing “the meeting today as half a step and tomorrow it will be a full step”. It was not immediately possible to verify the quote with the mediator or his team.

Diplomats say Mr Brahimi had planned to bring the government and opposition delegations together for a joint meeting to start a negotiating process aimed at resolving nearly three years of conflict in Syria.

Agencies

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