UN To Hold One-On-One Discussions With Both Parties At Syria Summit As Interactions Turn Acrimonious And Head For An Impasse In Montreux; Future Of Geneva Talks In Balance

 @arjunkashyapa.kashyap@ibtimes.com
on January 23 2014 2:19 AM
  • Syrian Opposition_Switzerland Peace Talks
    Senior Syrian opposition member Haitham al-Maleh sits alone during the second session of the Geneva-2 peace conference in Montreux on Jan. 22, 2014. Reuters/Jamal Saidi
  • Syrian Government_PeaceTalks_Switzerland
    Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem awaits the peace talks in Montreux on Jan. 22, 2014. Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann
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Shaky, bitter and hostile were some of the terms used by media dispatches, reporting from the first round of talks in Montreux, Switzerland, to describe the exchanges between delegates from Bashar Assad’s government and opposition forces.

The key takeaways so far, based on reports, have been that Assad remains unwilling to step down in favor of a transitional government while the opposition maintains that his departure from the presidency is non-negotiable. This impasse prompted the United Nations to announce that it would hold one-on-one meetings with the two parties, and express hope for a positive outcome based on the fact that neither side has walked away from the table.

"Assad isn't going," Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoabi told journalists on the sidelines of the talks, Al Jazeera reported Wednesday, while Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, head of Assad’s delegation, referred to opposition forces as traitors and enemy agents.

Ahmad Jarba, president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, said: "We are facing the terrorism of Assad who claims to be fighting terrorism," accusing the regime of killing 10,000 children since the civil began in 2011, according  to the report.

The discussions, which are being moderated by the U.N., and attended by various member nations, are aimed at bringing an end to the years-long civil war in Syria, which has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people, and recently thrown up fresh claims against Assad’s regime accusing it of the torture and killings of thousands of detainees.

The regime has denied the claims, which were made in a report published earlier this week by a team of former war crime prosecutors, based on photographs of victims shared by a defector from the Syrian military.

And while an agreement on the big questions at the end of the discussions seems improbable, according to BBC, negotiators will aim for small concessions such as the discussion of local peace pacts and access to aid convoys to assist the Syrian population.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that the "the really hard work begins on Friday,” BBC reported. "We have a difficult road ahead, but it can be done and it must be done."

On Friday, the talks move to nearby Geneva, where it’s still unclear if the two parties will agree to meet in person to take the negotiations forward.

"What we will try to do is talk about how to end this bloody war, and for that, I think, we have a kind of road map in the communique of 30 June 2012, and we'll see how we use that platform to best effect," said Lakhdar Brahimi, the special U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, and the chief mediator at the current talks, according to BBC.

"We have no illusion that it is going to be easy, but we are going to try very hard."

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