The government in Damascus and Syrian opposition groups have both said key talks on the conflict were a failure. World leaders agreed to usher in a transitional government to stop the bloodshed, but it's not clear how.
Government and opposition figureheads alike met the latest international deal aiming to stop the conflict with skepticism on Sunday. World powers had gathered in Geneva on Saturday and agreed to a plan advocating a transition government chosen by "mutual consent" by the various groups in Syria. The deal did not preclude anyone's participation in an interim administration.
The Syrian ruling party's newspaper, Al-Baath, said the meeting had "failed."
"The agreement of the task force on Syria in Geneva on Saturday resembles an enlarged meeting of the UN Security Council where the positions of the participants remained the same," it said.
The opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC) group, which orchestrates protests on the ground in Syria, said that Western countries had caved in to demands from countries closer to President Bashar al-Assad.
The LCC called the accord "just one version, different in form only, of the demands of Russian leaders allied to the Assad regime and who cover it militarily and politically in the face of international pressure."
A spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Council, Basma Qadmani, told the AFP news agency that the deal "seems to suggest a few positive elements," but added that "important elements remain too ambiguous… and the plan is too vague to foresee real and immediate action."
Fledgling deal, short on details
The UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, announced that world leaders had reached a consensus on Saturday evening. He said that the deal would seek a transition government in Syria that would help stop the violence and restore peace to the country. The final communiqué said that the government would be formed "on the basis of mutual consent."
The deal did not specifically exclude anybody from office, though Annan did say he did not expect Syrians to "select people with blood on their hands to lead them."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the deal implicitly called for Assad's removal, her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov said that was not the case.
Annan remains the UN and Arab League's chief mediator in the troubled country. It's not clear how he is to convince both sides to put down their arms and start the political process envisioned in the plan.
Violence has rocked Syria since early last year, with some rights groups estimating that over 15,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
msh/slk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)