Saudi Arabia & ‘their Western handlers’ behind Syria peace talks failure – Damascus envoy
The ultimatum that President Bashar Assad must go if there is to be peace in Syria, drawn up by the anti-Assad opposition backed by Saudi Arabia and the West, derailed the latest peace talks in Geneva, Damascus's envoy to the negotiations has said.
The eighth round of Syria peace negotiations in Geneva has ended in failure, after Damascus officials refused to engage in direct talks with the opposition, which continues to demand the removal of President Bashar Assad as a precondition for ending the six-year conflict.
"The Riyadh 2 Communique is a blackmail of the Geneva process," Syrian government negotiator Bashar Ja’afari told the media, referring to a document adopted during a Syrian opposition summit in the Saudi capital last month. As a result of the conference, attended by 140 participants and backers in the conflict, a communique was adopted insisting that the Syrian president must leave at the start of any transition period following the cessation of hostilities. The conflict has taken more than 400,000 lives.
"Those who drew up the Riyadh 2 statement were the ones who sabotaged this round. I mean by that the other side. I mean the Saudis and the Saudi handlers themselves who are the Western countries. They do not want the Geneva process to succeed."
Ja’afari insisted that the proposal contradicted previous UN resolutions, and said that outside forces wanted to turn Syria into “another Libya or Iraq.”
The Syrian negotiator also criticized the long-time mediator of the talks, Staffan de Mistura, who on Wednesday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to put pressure on Assad to accept constitutional reforms and fresh elections.
Ja’afari called de Mistura’s words an “error” that could "derail his mandate as a facilitator of the talks, which will have an impact on the Geneva process altogether.”
In turn, de Mistura said that Damascus’s refusal to engage with the opposition delegation, whom it has branded both unrepresentative and envoys of “terrorists,” as “regrettable.”
"Despite a lot of effort by my whole team, day and night with all sorts of creative formula, we did not have real negotiations," said de Mistura, who earlier suggested that Syria was on the verge of permanent fragmentation. "It is a big missed opportunity, a golden opportunity missed at the end of this year."