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Syria sees ‘no progress’ at peace talks, blasts UN mediator

GENEVA: A week of Geneva peace talks on Syria has proved fruitless, a source close to the Damascus government said Saturday, blaming UN pressure to end the five-year war.

“We have seen no progress these past five days,” the source told AFP, criticising UN mediator Staffan de Mistura for urging Damascus to unveil a detailed transition strategy.

“Mr De Mistura does not have the right to put pressure on anybody. He is the mediator in the discussions and should not take anybody’s side,” he added.

Earlier pro-governmental Syrian daily Al-Watan said the talks — held indirectly between the two sides via the UN mediator — had failed to produce “any significant result.”

De Mistura conceded Friday he was “still detecting large distances” between the government and main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) at the talks, which are due to resume Monday.

The opposition meanwhile were sanguine in their assessment, while criticising the “manoeuvres” of the Damascus government delegation.

“For the opposition, it was an opportunity to show its unity and willingness to participate effectively in a peace process,” said HNC representative Bassma Kodmani.

“In contrast we do not see any readiness on the other side to do the same. We see many manoeuvres on their part. From that standpoint I am not very optimistic,” Kodmani said.

The regime’s lead negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari, spoke only briefly Friday after meeting de Mistura and refused to take questions, saying Damascus had laid out “fundamental principles for a political solution to the crisis”.

But De Mistura, who noted the peace drive had helped essentially maintain a fragile ceasefire since being declared on February 27, urged the regime to go much further and said he hoped for detailed submissions within the week.

The HNC has made the departure of President Bashar al-Assad a non-negotiable demand, but Damascus has termed any talk of the president’s removal “a red line.”

The talks are designed to oversee the formation of a transitional administration as the country seeks to move beyond a civil war that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions. AFP