GENEVA: Syria’s warring sides focused on “terrorism” during a sixth day of talks in Geneva yesterday, sparring over who was to blame for the violence tearing their country apart.
For the first time in days, the two sides appeared to have agreed on the topic of discussion, but while they both wanted to talk about “terrorism” their interpretations of who was behind the violence differed widely.
The delegation from President Bashar Al Assad’s regime has long insisted the talks must first address “terrorism” by jihadists and armed groups in the opposition, as well as countries like Arab monarchies and Turkey which support them.
It points out that halting the violence was the first item on the Geneva I communique — the never-implemented road map to peace adopted in 2012 and the focus on the current talks.
The opposition National Coalition delegation, however, maintains that setting up the transitional government called for in Geneva I must come first, and must entail Assad’s departure, something the regime flatly rejects.
Last morning, the regime delegation presented a text it wanted the other side to agree on, urging all states to “prevent and stop the funding of terrorist acts.”
The text also insisted that “fighting terrorist organisations and driving them out of Syria is a common objective and duty for every Syrian.”
The opposition rejected the communique as “one-sided” and “unacceptable,” delegations spokesman Louay Safi told reporters, pointing out that the text failed to denounced “the regime’s crimes against humanity.”
The opposition representatives had presented a massive file about “the regime’s violence against the people,” he said.
“The biggest terrorist in Syria is Bashar Al Assad,” a source close to the opposition negotiating team told AFP.
“The regime wants to talk about terrorism. Barrel bombs are terrorism. Starving populations to death is terrorism. Torture, imprisonment are terrorism,” the source said.
A Human Rights Watch report published yesterday accused the regime of razing thousands of homes in areas that support the opposition as “collective punishment.”
The two sides were set to decide on the last day of the talks today when they would return to Geneva for a second round, likely after a week, Brahimi said.
No progress was apparent towards fulfilling the only tangible promise of the Geneva talks so far: the regime’s promise to allow women and children safe passage from besieged rebel-held areas of Homs, where an estimated 3,000 people live with near-daily shelling and the barest of supplies.
UN bodies and the International Committee of the Red Cross have said they are on standby with aid but are waiting for approval to move in.
Elsewhere though, a food convoy finally gained entry yesterday to the besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, south of Damascus, where dozens have died from shortages of food and medicines.
The UN Palestinian refugee agency said 600 food parcels had been delivered to the camp, where residents have spoken of eating grass, cats and dogs to stay alive.