UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi gestures during a press briefing at the United Nations Offices in Geneva on January 27, 2014
UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi gestures during a press briefing at the United Nations Offices in Geneva on January 27, 2014 © Fabrice Coffrini - AFP
UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi gestures during a press briefing at the United Nations Offices in Geneva on January 27, 2014
AFP
Last updated: January 27, 2014

Syria talks moving on to tackle transition

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Syrian peace talks are to tackle the issue of the nation's political transformation but the issue of crafting an interim government is still far off, the UN's mediator said Monday.

Speaking after regime and opposition negotiators said the process was deadlocked following initial efforts to talk politics, Lakhdar Brahimi announced that the so-called "Geneva communique" would be under discussion in Tuesday's session.

"We are doing what the situation allows, what the market can bear," he told reporters who pressed him on the slow pace of peace efforts.

"Tomorrow we are going to put forward the Geneva communique, of course the parties know it extremely well, and then we are going to decide with them how we are going to proceed in discussing its many elements," he added.

The so-called "Geneva I" declaration, agreed at an international conference in the Swiss city in 2012, was meant to pave the way for a mutually agreed political transition in war-torn Syria.

Its terms were never implemented as fighting spiralled on the ground, however.

"One of them is of course the composition of the governing body with full executive powers. But we will definitely not start with that, it's probably the most complicated subject," Brahimi cautioned.

Both the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and Syria's opposition agreed that the 2012 document would form the basis of their UN-brokered talks which finally began last Friday.

But they have diverging interpretations of the deal's diplomatic language, with the opposition for example insisting that Assad must go and the regime saying the president's future cannot be discussed at the talks.

Algerian Brahimi, a veteran mediator who was UN envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq, secured a tentative agreement Sunday on access for aid to the besieged city of Homs.

He said Monday he would rather have seen the Syrians talking peace after declaring a ceasefire on the ground, but that history showed that ending a hot war was not impossible.

"There are several peace processes that start with a discussion about a solution, without the fighting having stopped first. This is not the first time, but truly it is regrettable," he underlined.

Brahimi urged the warring sides' negotiators to focus on those caught up in a war that has claimed more than 130,000 lives and driven millions from their homes.

"My expectation of this conference is that this unjust war imposed on the Syrian people will stop. But I know that this is not going to happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or next week," he said.

"Those responsible on both sides, I hope, will be thinking of the Syrian people," he added.

He also called on foreign powers with influence in the region to use it.

"Whatever gain we have made is reversible," Brahimi said. "We hope that the parties will cooperate, we hope also that those who have influence will use their influence to help us move forward."

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