The fourth day of the Geneva 2 peace negotiations has been halted earlier than scheduled following a fierce exchange of accusations from both the opposition and the Syrian government over the alleged resumption of US military aid to the rebels.
The talks were cut short by the UN-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi following the morning session when the opposition delegation rejected an official complaint note presented by the Syrian government delegation criticizing the resumption of US aid.
“We believe this is not the best present to the Geneva conference,” said Faisal al-Mikdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, calling the American decision “another manifestation” of US support for “terrorist groups” in Syria.
“This proves again that the United States is not interested in the success of this process, and we believe the US has to desist and stop its claims that it is interested in the success of this conference,” he told reporters following the meeting.
The statement of condemnation said that the US, by choosing to arm rebels, made a “provocative decision” in violation of the Security Council resolution no. 1371, as weapons supplied will end up in the hands of extremists such as al-Nusra Front and the Islamic Front. The statement noted that the timing of this decision was truly surprising, as it serves “as a direct attempt to obstruct any political solution in Syria.”
On Monday, Reuters reported that “moderate” Syrian rebel factions are being armed by the United States after the US Congress secretly approved the measures. Weapons which allegedly reach Syria via Jordan include a variety of small arms, and are believed to include anti-tank rockets and shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.
On Monday, the US rejected arming the rebels, saying that “any notion that we support terrorists is ludicrous.”
“The Assad regime is a magnet for terrorists,” US State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said in a statement. “The regime’s brutality is the source of the violent extremism in Syria today. We support the moderate political and military opposition who are fighting for the freedom and dignity of all the Syrian people.”
Instead, Vasquez blamed the Assad government of undermining the talks, saying the document “shows that the regime is evading the core purpose of the Geneva talks.”
The UN refused to comment on reports of the decision by the US Congress to approve the delivery of small arms to Syrian opposition, but Brahimi told the Itar-Tass news agency that he had not seen an official statement on the issue by Washington.
In the meantime, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov said that arming the opposition translates into arming terrorists.
“New supplies of lethal and non-lethal weapons to the Syrian conflict area lay groundwork for supporting terrorists,” Lavrov told journalists in Brussels on Tuesday where Russia-European Union summit was being held.
Tuesday’s talks were supposed to focus on the transfer of power and providing aid to the city of Homs, but there was no progress toward resolving the key issue of whether President Bashar Assad should step down and transfer power to a transitional government.
Negotiations are to reconvene on Wednesday, Lakhdar Brahimi, the chief UN mediator, told reporters, as he hopes for a “better session.”
“Nobody is walking out,” Brahimi said, “Nobody is running away.”
“We have not achieved any breakthrough, but we are still at it, and this is good enough as far as I’m concerned,” Brahimi said.
A member of the opposition negotiating team, Rima Fleihan, said that UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi had cancelled the afternoon session “because the regime is not cooperating on any subject, not on humanitarian issues and not on a transitional governing body.”
She said the government’s representatives rejected the opposition’s “vision” for Syria. “We have a vision, unfortunately the regime presented nothing and refused all discussion.”
Moscow in the meantime wants to avoid “another obsession with regime change because of somebody’s personal animosity, personal hatred to a particular individual,” Lavrov said in Brussels.
“Imagine Assad disappears. Who is going to keep it together? There is no answer,” Lavrov said, adding that the “adoption of a declaration on principles of the Syrian state’s existence should be the next step in the inter-Syrian dialogue.”
On Monday, the government’s team presented a working paper on Syria’s future, which Murhaf Joueijati, a member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition’s negotiating team, said was rejected by the opposition because it “had nothing to do with a transitional government,” and was instead focused on the need to combat terrorism and cease funding and arming of rebel groups.
The governor of Homs province said on Tuesday that UN officials are trying to negotiate with opposition fighters to allow the evacuation of civilians, as security concerns and al-Qaeda linked cells hinder the operation. At the same time, Joueijati accused the government of not allowing the delivery of humanitarian aid to Homs, which has been under siege for almost two years.
Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Al-Mikdad denied the government’s role in delaying the delivery of aid, saying that Damascus needs “assurances that the aid will not go to armed and terrorist groups in the city.”
In the meantime, Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program, confirmed that aid vehicles are on standby.
“We need that all security conditions be met to allow this interagency convoy to go,” said Byrs.
Russia Today , January 29, 2014.