Russia, US help sought as Syria failure looms

February 14, 2014 - 2:29:05 am

UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi arrives to take part in peace talks at the United Nations headquarters .

GENEVA: Warning that “failure” was staring him in the face, the Syria peace talks mediator said yesterday that the US and Russia had promised renewed support to keep their rival Syrian allies talking.

UN diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi met senior diplomats from Washington and Moscow in Geneva, hoping the co-sponsors of the three-week-old negotiating process could bury their differences over Syria and prevail on the opposition and government to move ahead and compromise.

“They have reaffirmed their support for what we are trying to do and promised that they will help here and in their capitals and elsewhere to unblock the situation for us, because until now we have not made much progress,” Brahimi told a news conference. 

Asked after his two-hour meeting with US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov whether the whole process had failed, he said:  “Failure is always staring at us in the face. 

“As far as the UN is concerned we will not leave one stone unturned if there is a possibility to move forward. If there isn’t, we will say so.”

A US official said: “The hard work of diplomacy continues and the US will continue to support it.” Russian officials were not immediately available.

However, a senior member of Syria’s main opposition group quoted Sherman as saying talks with Brahimi and Gatilov had not gone well. “She told us about the meeting with the Russians and Brahimi and it was not successful,” Badr Jamous, Secretary-General of the Syrian National Coalition said after meeting Sherman. He did not elaborate.

A new stand-off between Russia and the West in the UN Security Council over resolutions on aid for Syria has contributed to the deadlock, while continuing fighting has left tens of thousands under siege, hoping for relief from abroad.

Russia said it had presented a draft UN resolution on fighting “terrorism” in Syria and its own plan for improving aid access, throwing down a challenge to Western states in the Council which proposed another formulation that Moscow says would open the way for Western military intervention. 

Western diplomats and Syrian opposition delegates have complained that President Bashar Al Assad’s government was refusing to discuss proposals for a transition of power and hoped Russia would press it to do so. 

“What we have seen is that the regime is not serious,” opposition delegate Anas Al Abdah said. “The sooner the Russians can put pressure on the regime, the better. And they are positioned to do that.”

Brahimi will meet the two Syrian delegations separately for further talks today.    Agencies

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