Warring sides in Syria’s civil war have shared a moment of silence for victims of the conflict at the Geneva 2 peace talks. However, the focus quickly shifted to disputes over responsibility for terrorism in the country.
Delegates from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and the opposition spent the second to last day of the Geneva 2 conference in a stalemate over who was responsible for the violence in the country, as peace talks in Geneva focused on "terrorism."
The sixth day of talks got off to a positive start with both sides observing a minute of silence for the 130,000 people killed and millions of victims forced to flee their homes during the three year conflict. However, both sides quickly shifted back to their disputes when the government delegation accused the opposition of supporting terrorism for refusing to sign a resolution opposing it.
"We presented a proposal that the two sides might agree on the importance of combating violence and terrorism. The other side rejected it because they are involved in the issue of terrorism," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said.
The opposition rejected the resolution as "one-sided" and "unacceptable," delegation spokesman Louay Safi told reporters, adding that the text failed to address foreign fighters from Iran, Iraq and Lebanese Hezbollah supporting the Assad government.
UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters on Thursday that, "There is of course agreement that terrorism ... is a very serious problem inside Syria, but there's no agreement on how to deal with it."
"This is really the beginning of our process," Brahimi stressed of the talks which are the first time both sides have sat down with each other since the conflict erupted in March 2011.
The Geneva 2 peace talks are expected to wrap up Friday without a concrete strategy on ending the violence, agreeing on a political transition or ensuring humanitarian aid.
There has also been no progress towards fulfilling the regime's promise to allow women and children safe passage from besieged rebel-held areas of Homs.
Hopes remain for more progress in a second round of talks, which diplomats expect to begin around Feb 10.
Concern over chemical weapon destruction
The United States expressed concern Thursday over Syria's delay in handing over its chemical weapons stockpiles.
The criticism came as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world's chemical watchdog, said less than five percent of the most dangerous chemicals in the Syrian armory had been shipped out.
Robert Mikulak, the US representative to the OPCW, told the body's executive council Thursday, "The effort to remove chemical agent and key precursor chemicals from Syria has seriously languished and stalled.” He called on Damascus to comply with the UN resolution and June 30 deadline.
Syria agreed to surrender its arsenal after a deadly chemical attack in August on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.
hc/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)