Syria peace talks near collapse before they start

What do you expect when you put John Kerry in charge of something?

Talks to end the Syrian civil war appear headed for oblivion th eopposition is refusing to meet the delgation representing Presidnet Assad.


Syria's first peace talks were on the verge of collapsing on Friday before they began, with the opposition refusing to meet President Bashar al-Assad's delegation and the government threatening to bring its team home.

The opposition said it would not meet Assad's delegation unless it first agreed to sign up to a protocol calling for a transitional administration. The government rejected the demand outright and said its negotiators would return home unless serious talks began within a day.

"If no serious work sessions are held by (Saturday), the official Syrian delegation will leave Geneva due to the other side's lack of seriousness or preparedness," Syrian state television quoted Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem as saying.

Friday was meant to be the first time in three years of war that Assad's government and foes would negotiate face to face.

But plans were ditched at the last minute after the opposition said the government delegation must first sign up to a 2012 protocol, known as Geneva 1, that calls for an interim government to oversee a transition to a new political order.

"We have explicitly demanded a written commitment from the regime delegation to accept Geneva 1. Otherwise there will be no direct negotiations," opposition delegate Haitham al-Maleh told Reuters.

The government delegation met U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi separately, and said it rejected the opposition demand: "No, we will not accept it," Information Minister Omran Zoabi told Reuters.

Brahimi, who met the government team for barely an hour, was due to talk to the opposition delegation separately later on Friday.

The opposition says it has come to discuss a transition that will remove Assad from power. The government says it is there only to talk about fighting terrorism - the word it uses for its enemies - and that no one can force Assad to go.

Well, at least I hope all the delegates got in some skiiing before they leave. Geneva is lovely this time of year and is always a good party destination.

In all seriousness, did anyone expect any other outcome? The two sides refuse to breathe the same air and it's going to take a lot more than 120,000 dead (and the prospect of an al-Qaeda victory) to get the two sides moving toward an agreement. The opposition is seeking legitimacy from those fighting the war in Syria and the only way they feel they can do that is hold to a precondition for Assad's ouster before any talks get underway. That's a recipe for deadlock as Assad sees no reason to go. The stalemate on the battlefield suits him fine. The only way he changes his mind is if the military situation deteriorates completely - something that no one imagines at this point.

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