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SNC insists talks focus on transitional government


February 10, 2014

GO BIG OR GO HOME: A comprehensive solution to the Syrian crisis will only be achieved “through a peaceful transition of power and the departure of Assad,” Syrian National Coalition (SNC) spokesman Munzer Akbik told Al Arabiya in an interview from Geneva Sunday night.

On Monday, as the Syrian National Coalition and the Syrian government’s delegation returned to Geneva, Switzerland for the second round of Geneva II peace talks, the two sides could cite little progress.

In a statement Monday, the SNC demanded the United Nations Security Council pass a resolution allowing the entry of humanitarian aid, after a weekend in which a UN-brokered 72-hour ceasefire was unceremoniously shattered when shelling targeted a humanitarian convoy evacuating citizens and delivering aid to besieged Old Homs.

Syrian state media blamed “armed groups” for attacking the aid workers. Citizen journalists and humanitarian aid workers have blamed informal pro-government militias for the shelling, while the SNC blamed “regime forces.”

 In their first face-to-face negotiations in three years, which began on January 22nd, the SNC and the government delegation discussed a UN proposal for what would eventually become the failed ceasefire in Old Homs.

The “ceasefire” continued Monday, said Hassan Abu Zain, a citizen journalist in Old Homs, but “the UN and the Red Crescent continue to witness shelling with their own eyes.”

At the conclusion of the first round of talks, the Syrian government announced they would use the June 2012 Geneva Commnuniqué as the basis for talks, appearing to acquiesce to a long-held SNC demand to refer to the document that in one article calls for a transitional government in Syria.

But the Syrian government has since insisted the broad communiqué should be revisited item-by-item, a position Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad reiterated to the official news agency SANA on Monday.

The government delegation will “discuss the Geneva communiqué item by item, in sequence,” he said, adding, “security and stability must be reestablished in the Syrian Arab Republic, to put an end to terrorism and violence.” The first item of the Geneva statement relates specifically to what the Syrian government calls terrorism: “All parties must re-commit to a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms and implementation of the six-point plan immediately and without waiting for the actions of others.”

The two side’s divergent positions reinforce the consensus among observers that the talks will have little tangible gain.

What is most likely to come out of Geneva II, one pro-opposition Syrian told Syria Direct, is “arrangements for Geneva III.”

In Akbik’s interview, the Al Arabiya correspondent seemed already prepared for a future conference.

“Welcome, Mr. Munzer,” she begins the interview. “Can Geneva III accomplish what Geneva II did not?”

Video courtesy of the Syrian National Coalition.

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