News compilation by New Cold War.org, May 21, 2017
UN sees ‘incremental progress’ after Syria talks
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura ended four days of Syria talks on May 19, saying there had been “incremental progress” and he planned to reconvene negotiations in June. But the warring sides still showed no sign of wanting to be in the same room, let alone on the same page in terms of negotiating Syria’s political future.
Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja’afari told reporters the talks had not included any discussion of the four main agenda items – reformed governance, new elections, a new constitution and the fight against terrorism.
He suggested the United States had tried to undermine his negotiating position by saying at the start of the round that a crematorium had been built at Sednaya prison north of Damascus to dispose of detainees’ remains. Ja’afari called the accusation “a big lie” and “a Hollywood show” and said the timing was “no coincidence”.
Syrian opposition delegation leader Nasr al-Hariri said it was not possible to reach a political solution or to fight terrorism as long as Iran and its militias remained in Syria, and reiterated the opposition’s demand to remove President Bashar al-Assad.
The UN talks no longer aim to bring an end to the fighting – that objective has been taken up by parallel talks sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran – but they do aim to prepare the way for political reform in Syria, if the six-year-old war ends.
“Any momentum provides some type of hope that we are not just waiting for the golden day but e are actually working for it,” de Mistura told a news conference in Geneva.
“History is not, especially in a conflict environment, written by timelines that we set up artificially. They could be a target, a dream, a wish, a day for us to try to aim at.”
Among the modest goals of this sixth round of talks was a more businesslike format for meetings and less rhetorical grandstanding by the warring sides.
Syria’s Al-Jaafari: Our ambition is focused on combating terrorism, we remind that state terrorism is being practiced against Syria
Syrian Arab News Agency, Friday, May 19, 2017
GENEVA – The head of the Syrian Arab Republic delegation to Geneva, Bashar al-Jaafari, announced on Friday the end of the official meetings of the 6th round of intra-Syrian dialogue held in the Swiss city. A final session of the talks was held by the delegation with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
“We have just concluded the last session with the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, within the framework of the current Geneva round, which we agreed to call the 6th round of Geneva. For us, as the delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic, the official meetings with the Special Envoy have ended at this moment and de Mistura as the special envoy will follow his contacts and meetings, but this is another matter,” al-Jaffari said in a press statement following the end of the session.
“In this round, we discussed mainly one topic, which can be considered as the fruit that matured or resulted from this round. I mean expert meetings. One expert meeting was held yesterday between our experts and experts of the Special Envoy’s team and this is the only result that we came out with in this round,” he added.
In response to a question about the coincidence of the meeting with an American aggression and ISIS massacre against Syrians in addition to the ambition of achieving better results in this round, al-Jaafari said that the delegation discussed during today’s session the U.S. attack on one of the Syrian Arab Army’s military points on al-Tanf road in the Syrian Badia, which took place Thursday evening [May 18].
“Minutes ago, we talked extensively about the massacre committed by the U.S. aggression on Thursday in my country .The important thing is that our political ambition is the highest in terms of concerns within all parties involved. Our ambition is supreme because we want to constantly focus on the fight against terrorism, “he said.
Al-Jaafari pointed out that terrorism, represented by terrorist groups and the terrorism committed by countries and governments against Syria which includes the US, French and British aggression whether against civil or military targets, as what happened in Manbaj city when the French bombed the city and killed 200 civilians or as in Raqqa when the U.S. raided the Deaf and Dumb school, as happened in al-Tharda Mountain in Deir Ezzor or as happened yesterday also.
“At every meeting, we would like to remind the attendees that state terrorism is being practiced against our country,” he added.
On setting a time limit for [further] expert meetings and whether it would continue beyond the Geneva meetings, al-Jaafari noted that he did not say that, but, he added “I said that in this round there was only one meeting at the expert level, which was yesterday’s meeting. I mean between our experts and the experts of the Special Envoy, but the agreement is that these technical meetings take place during the rounds and not between or after them.”
“This is absolutely false,” al-Jaafari said in response to a question about some statements that the meetings were focused on the issue of political transition and the nature of the government. He clarified that Astana agreement on the de-escalation zones is about specific areas and not the entire Syrian territory, noting that the mechanisms of implementing the agreement have not been set yet.
“You should take into consideration that the main focus of the talks is the delegation as a whole. The expert meetings are detailed in a whole scene and therefore the important thing is the delegation’s meeting. The meetings of the experts are purely technical in order to find common points between the points related to the constitutional process, which are included in the paper of basic principles, and our political talks at the level of the delegation as a whole because the meeting of experts will be of a partial nature to take place within the framework of the meetings of the whole delegation,” he explained.
About U.S. allegations about Sednaya prison, al-Jaafari said that this kind of allegation is not new and in every round of talks whether in Astana or in Geneva, and even before that, even in the Security Council, a massacre was carried out, adding that “only the nuclear weapon is left to hit us and they no longer have dangerous toys, but to use the nuclear and accuse us of using it.”
“The purpose of this fabricated story by U.S. intelligence is to increase the pressure on us politically as a government and secondly to prepare for the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to Riyadh because he talks about the establishment of a new Arab-Islamic NATO, which is a funny story, funded by Saudi regime and Gulf countries who are ready to spend billions of dollars on the fabrication of wars in the region besides the existing wars,” he pointed out.
“This story is part of the general view of the pressure exerted on the Syrian government. It is no coincidence that this type of allegation appeared on the first day of our arrival in Geneva because it was intended to defame and exert pressure on us politically and to help the other extremist parties who reject the political solution in the escalation during the Geneva round,” he said.
Asked whether any of the four baskets were discussed [reformed governance, new elections, a new constitution and the fight against terrorism], al-Jaafari said “in four days we did not discuss any of the four baskets; we only talk about the subject of expert meetings.”
The session of talks between the Syrian Arab Republic delegation and the UN Special Envoy for Syria was held earlier today at the headquarters of the United Nations in the Geneva. Four sessions of talks were held between both sides over the past three days.
In a press conference following yesterday’s session, al-Jaafari said that the intensive consultations held between the UN Envoy and the Syrian Arab Republic delegation over the past two days resulted in reaching agreement to hold informal meetings with constitutional experts from both sides.
He added that the purpose of these meetings is to discuss the paper of basic principles, which includes in its articles appropriate points that serve as constitutional principles, referring to the basic principles paper which consists of 12 points where the elements related to the constitutional process will be dealt with.
Syria talks overshadowed by U.S. military strike
Video news report by Homa Lezgee, Press TV, May 20, 2017 (two-minute report)
The latest round of Syria peace talks comes to an end in Geneva with little progress. The talks were overshadowed by the US military strike in the country. The Syrian government’s chief negotiator says he wants to focus on battling state-sponsored terrorism which has been plaguing his country. From Geneva, Press TV’s Homa Lezgee reports.
Intra-Syrian talks end with ‘incremental progress;’ possible resumption in June – UN negotiator
UN News Center, May 19, 2017
United Nations-facilitated talks to help resolve the Syrian conflict have ended on schedule in Geneva, where UN negotiator Staffan de Mistura said he was satisfied that some progress had been made, and that there had been “less rhetoric” on all sides.
Speaking to journalists after his meetings with delegations from the Syrian Government and opposition, as well as representatives from Russia and the United States, the UN Special Envoy said that he would look to hold further intra-Syrian talks “sometime in June.”
Mr. de Mistura underlined that the purpose of this short round of discussions was to address “constitutional and legal issues” which could provide a “strong, legal and constitutional basis” for any future negotiated political process. The mechanism for this was a series of high-level meetings in Geneva – which the Special Envoy explained were meant to complement the existing intra-Syrian talks.
But only the Syrian people – and not the UN – would be in charge of writing their own constitution, he insisted: “We are not planning or aiming through this to draft a new constitution for Syria; this has to be done by the Syrians. We are rather trying, and we intend to pursue trying to lay the ground for the Syrians to do exactly that, in the context of an overall political solution that is in the context as you know, of [UN Security Council] resolution 2254 (2015).”
As well as a new constitution for Syria, the UN-facilitated process remains focused on three other main issues: free and fair elections, combating terrorism and governance.
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