Syria foes say Geneva talks 'positive'

Syria foes say Geneva talks 'positive'
Wed Jan 29, 2014 20:52:41

Syria's warring sides say peace talks in Geneva have taken a positive turn, but there are still deep divisions on what the focus of the negotiations should be.

On Wednesday, delegations from President Bashar al-Assad's government and the opposition National Coalition both said a fifth day of talks had gotten off to a "positive" start.

They said the discussion finally focused on the Geneva I communique -- the never-implemented roadmap to peace put out by global powers during talks in Geneva in 2012 -- but appeared to disagree about what aspects of the text they had discussed.

The opposition maintains that creating the transitional government called for in the Geneva I communique must be the first step towards a political solution, and insists implementing the document requires Assad to leave power.

The government denies the text requires Assad to step down and says his role is not up for debate at this conference.

Government delegation member Buthaina Shaaban confirmed that talks on the Geneva communique had begun Wednesday and had been "positive", but said this was "because they spoke about terrorism."

She stressed that the first item in the Geneva text is related to ending the violence in Syria, something the government largely equates to rooting out the terrorism the opposition and its foreign backers are supporting.

"We want to discuss Geneva I item by item, starting from the first item... They want to jump to the item that speaks about the transitional government," Shaaban said, accusing the opposition of only being interested in grabbing power.

Despite their disagreement about the topic of discussion, the positive tone marked a shift after two days of total deadlock.

The two sides, which were set for separate meetings Wednesday afternoon, have been brought together in Geneva in the biggest diplomatic push yet to end a civil war that has left more than 130,000 dead and forced millions from their homes.

Syria sank into war in March 2011 when pro-reform protests turned into a massive insurgency following the intervention of Western and regional states.

The unrest, which took in terrorist groups from across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, has transpired as one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history.

HH/HH

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