Syria Warring Sides to Meet Saturday after Regime Delegation Threatened to Quit Peace Talks

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U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said Friday that delegations from Syria's regime and opposition had agreed to meet together for peace talks in Geneva on Saturday.

"I met the delegations of the opposition and the government separately yesterday and again today and tomorrow we expect, we have agreed, that we will meet in the same room," Brahimi told journalists.

Pulled together by the United Nations, Russia and the United States, delegations from President Bashar Assad's regime and the opposition had been due to sit down early Friday at U.N. headquarters in Geneva for their first face-to-face talks.

But Brahimi was unable to convince them to sit together, after the opposition insisted the regime must be prepared to discuss Assad leaving power.

"We knew that it was going to be difficult, complicated," Brahimi said. "We never expected this to be easy -- I think the two parties understand what is at stake."

The regime has threatened to withdraw from the talks should "serious sessions" fail to take place on Saturday, but Brahimi appeared confident no one would be immediately walking away from the talks.

"Both parties are going to be here tomorrow and they will be meeting. Nobody will be leaving on Saturday and nobody will be leaving on Sunday," he said.

Brahimi said discussions so far had been "encouraging" but said talks on concrete issues had not yet begun.

"We have not discussed the core matters yet. We hope that both parties will give concessions that will be to the benefit of the process," he said.

Earlier on Friday, Syria's regime threatened to quit peace talks in Geneva.

Syrian state television said Foreign Minister Walid Muallem had told Brahimi that "should serious sessions fail to take place tomorrow, the official Syrian delegation will leave Geneva."

Muallem told Brahimi "the Syrian delegation is serious and ready to start, but the other side is not," it said.

Brahimi spent Thursday trying to convince them to be in the same room for the start of the talks -- the biggest diplomatic effort yet to stem the bloodshed in Syria's devastating civil war.

But instead he again met separately with each delegation.

"This process is shaping up, so there have been changes to previous declarations," U.N. spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told reporters. "We are going step by step."

Brahimi met the regime delegation in the late morning and had begun meeting with the opposition National Coalition around 4:00 pm (1500 GMT).

Sources within the delegations told Agence France Presse the opposition had refused to sit in the same room unless the regime accepted the need for a transitional government without Assad.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad told reporters the opposition was obstructing the talks.

"The problem is that these people do not want to make peace, they are coming here with pre-conditions," he told reporters.

"Of course we are ready to sit in the same room. Why are we coming here then?"

Nazir al-Hakim, a member of the opposition delegation, told AFP it was only willing to negotiate on the basis of the agreement reached at the "Geneva I" peace conference in 2012, which called for the creation of a transitional government.

"We agree to negotiate on the application of Geneva I. The regime does not accept that," he said.

"We will be in the same room when there is a clear agenda for negotiations. We need guarantees that Geneva I will be discussed," Hakim said.

The regime rejects the opposition's contention that the Geneva I agreement requires Assad to go.

Expectations are very low for a breakthrough at the Geneva II discussions, which officials have said could last up to 10 days.

But diplomats believe that simply bringing the two sides together for the first time is a mark of progress and could be an important first step.

With no one appearing ready for serious concessions, mediators will be looking for short-term deals to keep the process moving forward, including on localized ceasefires, freer humanitarian access and prisoner exchanges.

Brahimi said he "had indications" from both sides that they were willing to discuss these issues.

The opposition arrived in Switzerland with a sole aim -- toppling Assad -- while the regime says any talk of removing the Syrian leader is a "red line" it will not cross.

Prominent opposition member Burhan Ghalioun told reporters that Assad's opponents would not leave Geneva before the regime.

"We will stay the whole time. The Syrian opposition will not withdraw from this conference until the rights of the Syrian people are met," he said.

The start of the conference in the Swiss town of Montreux on Wednesday was marked by fiery exchanges, with Muallem labeling the opposition "traitors" and agents of foreign governments.

But U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon urged the two sides to work together, saying: "Enough is enough, the time has to come to negotiate."

Erupting after the regime cracked down on protests inspired by the Arab Spring, Syria's civil war has claimed more than 130,000 lives and forced millions from their homes.

Pitting Assad's regime, dominated by the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam, against largely Sunni Muslim rebels, the war has unsettled large parts of the Middle East.

It took months of efforts to convince the two sides to come to the conference, with the opposition National Coalition only deciding at the last minute to attend.

The debate over whether to take part exposed deep divisions within the opposition, with its biggest bloc, the Syrian National Council, quitting the coalition after the decision was taken.

Questions have been raised about whether the opposition delegation is truly representative of Assad's opponents and if it would be able to implement any deal with rebel fighters on the ground.

Comments 44
Thumb -phoenix1 24 January 2014, 13:50

These Syrians are nuts at best, they've seen what happens when a country goes into civil war, the horrors that the people go through, the foreign interference that only deepen the rifts further between the same people. In Syria, people are blistering each other to shreds, added to that foreigners are cutting them to pieces, and now when a real civilized chance is is given them, they start playing hub-nub? If this Geneva Summit comes to pass without an agreement between themselves, the fallout on Syria and its people will be even worse, because they the attendees would have confirmed that Syria is now ever more open to abuses of all kinds. And who will suffer most after all? Syrians still have a chance to turn things around, on the ground they can't do much, but around the table they CAN.

Missing 25 January 2014, 02:36

The Assad regime refuses to go. This is the crux of the problem. Everything else are details.

Thumb legit 24 January 2014, 14:08

According to NAHARNET, and i quote, "Erupting after the regime cracked down on protests inspired by the Arab Spring, Syria's civil war has claimed more than 130,000 lives and forced millions from their homes."

I do not remember USA killing any M14-Saudi prior to September 11 2001, yet the same culture killed 3500 work goers

Missing helicopter 24 January 2014, 16:54

This is an improvement over your "sagh" avatar

Missing 25 January 2014, 02:36

Seriousely legit - you are an idiot.

Missing nick.olson.92102 24 January 2014, 15:58

the precondition that Bashar has no role in Syrias future is unacceptable. What right does the opposition have to make this demand? #jarba is only reading a script given to him by his nato controllers.

Thumb beiruti 24 January 2014, 16:21

These guys cannot even agree over the object of their negotiations. Assad Regime representatives think its about "fighting terrorism" which I suppose means to devise plans and win international support to crush the Opposition which it has openly called "terrorists".
For the Opposition, they think it is to realize Geneva I, which is to form a transitional government to move the State away from the Assad Regime.
These are not compatible positions. Both sides still seek as their agenda the elimination of the other side. No party will negotiate its own demise. In such a configuration, one agenda will succeed and the other fail and this only happens when there is a victor and a vanquished in war, not around a table.

Thumb beiruti 24 January 2014, 16:21

Geneva is a contrivance of Obama to avoid a war and of Lavrov to save his client Assad. Russia can realize its objective in these talks and save Assad, but Obama is not avoiding a war with this, he is only deferring a war and the longer he defers then the bigger will be the inevitable war that is to come.

Thumb beiruti 24 January 2014, 16:34

the alternative is more war, more division, both sides have deep pockets in the Iranians/Russians and Saudi/Qataris so that this thing can go on for quite some time on the battle field and cause divisions that will never heal. The International Community, to do its job, would promote this reasonable solution

Thumb beiruti 24 January 2014, 16:34

Still, I believe the only outcome, given the configuration of the parties the only reasonable outcome is for the parties to agree to contest the leadership of the country in a free election. Assad can run on his record over the period of the last 3 years and the Opposition can field a candidate. Unlike Egypt where the Opposition fielded 20 candidates to insure that the MB would win, the Opposition would have to agree to a candidate to put up against Assad and which ever, the Regime or the Opposition, that won the most votes would govern.
If Assad loses then he would face the real possibility that the Opposition would prosecute him and his regime for war crimes, or allow The Hague to do this.

Thumb ice-man 24 January 2014, 16:43

Souther: Please, stick to the topic at hand and refrain from making unfounded accusations against intellectuals, free thinkers, and respected members of society.

Thumb ice-man 24 January 2014, 17:08

Dear Southern: Intellectuals can express in a few words more than villagers can do in volumes.

Thumb ice-man 24 January 2014, 17:46

Dear Flamethrower: I am busy right now, but I will be happy to ignore you some other time.

Missing helicopter 24 January 2014, 17:07

It is a model that has perfected by the Syrian regime and HA in Lebanon. Prop up extremism just enough to justify one's existence. So just HA needs a bit of Sunni extremism, Asaad needs the same. It has been well reported facts from the battle field that the Syrian regime has been hitting the FSA hard while leaving Nusra, ISIL and such extreme elements intact. THose extreme elements are allowed to draw resources from oil in areas they control so they can arm themselves and carry on the fight against FSA. The FSA is the true face of Syria and hence it is the biggest threat to Asaad. Just like a Modern and HA-free Lebanon would be the real threat to both Asaad and Israel.

Thumb ice-man 24 January 2014, 17:16

There are statements made by great minds that are legendary and ageless. Below are some of those that have left a lasting effect on me, and in no particular order:

1. "I have a dream" by Martin Luther King
2. "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" by John F. Kennedy

3. "Why is there so much evil" by Bashar Assad

4. "I am a supporter of Hizbullah, but I am impartial" by Southern from Dahiyeh.

Thumb ice-man 24 January 2014, 17:24

5. " I support HA, but I enjoy music" by Southern from Dahiyeh

Missing KhalilH 24 January 2014, 17:31

LOL @iceman, i will vote u down coz u are obstructing debate but that was hilarious!!

Thumb ice-man 24 January 2014, 17:37

LOL @KhalilH: What is more hilarious is your impartiality too. Just look a few posts up and see I was not even on this thread when the honorable villager attacked me for no reason. You seem like a nice guy, really.

Default-user-icon boulos10 (Guest) 24 January 2014, 17:48

Yo Flamethrower,
one candidate and the same candidate every election winning by 99.9% of the vote is what?
Get real, your comments in general are bellow average and a waste of time.

Missing peace 24 January 2014, 17:53

"but it may differ in one thing: it's residents were subjected to the Israeli aggressions "

southern is going to make us cry! poor man, all LEBANON was subjected to israeli aggression.... or i bet you think that Lebanon only boils down to dahiye as a brave brainwashed hezbi you are? LOL!

Thumb beiruti 24 January 2014, 18:07

Since losing a free election, that is, one that the Assad Regime does not control to a predetermined outcome, will mean that key members of the Assad Regime would face war crimes trials and convictions, the option of free elections, to Assad, is the same as capitulation, which Assad will never do.

Thumb beiruti 24 January 2014, 18:07

Still, the free election route is the best, though complicated as FT has written, because Assad's bluff can be called by a process that he has already said he will freely engage. International monitoring is needed, return of refugees is needed and all of the talk that Assad has lost legitimacy because of the dropping of barrel bombs, gassing his people, waging war by starvation and rape, put that before the Syrian people and let them vote. If they want to be led by such a regime, who can say no. If they do not, then they should have a free choice to go in a different direction and Assad should be made to comply, not with John Kerry's demand that he go, but with the will of the Syrian people expressed in a free election.

Missing helicopter 24 January 2014, 19:43

I am worried about elections NOT happening in Lebanon and about HA wanting to become the STATE and about arms everywhere (Militias, Palastenian camps and individuals) and about our Crook Politicians pillaging the country and creating further divisions amongst the Lebanese.

Thumb legit 24 January 2014, 18:58

I never thought I had this effect on you and your culture. Listen to you, you are shaking man while you STEALING my avatar.
Be careful to visit Saudi Arabia or Opposition-controlled areas in Syria, you will get your hands chopped off for stealing.

Missing helicopter 24 January 2014, 19:39

Is that so legit? Even if it was for stealing electricity?

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 21:03

If Geneva II really wanted peace for Syria, then how come they don't let Iran participate, and how come that Assads removal is a pre condition? People should ask themselves these questions. The Salafi groups don't even want to join the talk, and they are the main opposition force.

This war will just keep on for years to come.

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 21:30

Iran is involved in their support of the Syrian government, and they never denied that. Saudi Arabia joined the talks, so why shouldn't the counterpart Iran join too? Ask yourself that

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 21:38

define denied anony?

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 21:42

No, Assad must not go, because that would only strengthen Al Qaedas grip. Btw why should Assad leave now? The Syrian people wants him to stay, and they have fought for their country and President for 3 years, all that to give him up now? Don't be too naive and happy anony, those are utterly your dreams and the non important so called Syrian opposition.

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 21:45

Actually for your lack of information anony, Iranian Republican Guards are stationed inside Syria now, to provide logistical support. So where are you going with this?

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 21:46

Quote - "Hezbollah choosed themselves to interfere in Syria, they wasen't ordered by Iran" That is the whole point of this post.

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 22:07

Saudi denies funding al Qaeda with cash and weaponry, Bandars filthy money let the Nusra Isil and other factions stay alive in Syria. So you deny their involvement in the support of these groups right?

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 22:08

I am not interested in your propaganda aswell, if you don't want to hear my opinion, why do you want to discuss with me then? I can tell you, that Assad will not go, he has many backers, and they are about to win. The wind is blowing in their direction now, whether you like it or not.

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 22:41

The US. Supported rebels in the beginning of the unrest. They never stopped their flow of arms to them, aslong as Saudi can buy the weapons, then US will gladly sell them.

That there is Al Qaeda in Syria makes no difference, and that they started fighting each other just proofs, that there are no control of the opposition groups what so ever.

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 22:42

Fact is, even with the support of the US you still could not win.

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 23:06

They still have stingers anony, the al qaeda aka rebels still have heavy weapons.

In the beginning of the conflict the Syrian Arab Army wasen't ready, but now they are very well aware of what they are up against.

Now the Syrian airforce are better to dodge the missiles fired, and they are also better equipped with heat flares that will misguide the stingers to explode into it.

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 23:12

Btw how well did that go for the americans? Sending stingers to the same enemy they would be fighting later on.

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 23:18

Well anony, if your beloved rebels weren't so busy butchering each other, then maybe you wouldn't need to believe in my so called "propgaganda" the fact that you are writing like this, proofs you are in panic, and that your so called "revolution" has indeed failed. The SAA don't even have to fight you anymore, all they need is popcorn to sit and watch while you slaughter each other.

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 23:29

They still flew when the Al Qaeda use stingers against them, only a few helicopters and jets were destroyed, all the helicopters and jets have to do, is to fly a little more above, to be out of reach. They can still bomb the Al Qaeda whenever they want. So how come you couldn't win back then neither? No i do not live in US. Why are you concerned about my residence?

Missing peace 24 January 2014, 23:32

"and peace, go talk with people of your retardation level, idiot."
poor FT... always resorting to insults when the truth hurts his feelings...

stop living in denial of your support to bashar little FPM traitor... you should be proud to support such a democrat and pacifist man, no?

proud to spit on the memory of hundreds of lebanese who died fighting this regime... but your privileges are more important than your principles, typical from today's aounists blinded by their unconditional love to a mad man.....

you deserve no respect whatsoever, as you have no dignity... so be happy to support this regime as you will bitterly regret it....

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 23:44

Now i will send you the same message that i send anony, just with your name on it instead.

Well veritas1, if your beloved rebels weren't so busy butchering each other, then maybe you wouldn't need to believe in my so called "propgaganda" the fact that you are writing like this, proofs you are in panic, and that your so called "revolution" has indeed failed. The SAA don't even have to fight you anymore, all they need is popcorn to sit and watch while you slaughter each other.

Missing peace 24 January 2014, 23:56

no one other than bashar manipulated those islamists groups to enter the battle to justify their massacres and propaganda and later on the intervention of hezbis...
this regime harboured trained and financed islamists for decades and used them as pawns... like Nahr el bared for example...and suddenly no more islamists loyal to the regime? LOL

but M8ers like things to be simple: the good vs the evil ! they cannot see complex things as their binary minds bug otherwise!

so for them it is simple: M14 finances islamists against bashar so it justifies hezbis to go there!

poor people, they deserve pity.....

Thumb Mystic 24 January 2014, 23:57

2 American girls whining about Hezbollah. Not anything new to me, keep dreaming about Hezbollahs fall or Assads. Good day to you

Thumb joker37 25 January 2014, 00:29

@texas isnt assad regime resupplied almost exclusively by air? Last I checked rafik hariri airport was in dahieh.
This renders your analysis null and void