Talks over, little sign of progress towards Syria peace

Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba gestures as he makes a statement after the conclusion of talks on Syria, in Geneva, on Jan 31, 2014. Syrian government and opposition delegations leave ten days of peace talks with few results and a follow-up m
Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba gestures as he makes a statement after the conclusion of talks on Syria, in Geneva, on Jan 31, 2014. Syrian government and opposition delegations leave ten days of peace talks with few results and a follow-up meeting uncertain, but analysts and negotiators say the discussions are an important beginning. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIRUT (AFP) - Syrian government and opposition delegations leave ten days of peace talks with few results and a follow-up meeting uncertain, but analysts and negotiators say the discussions are an important beginning.

The immediate post-mortem on the talks from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was blunt.

"I regret to tell you that we have not reached tangible results during this week," he said as the talks wrapped up in Geneva on Friday.

Despite persistent pressure from UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, and cosponsors Russia and the United States, the two delegations failed to agree on a single point.

No ceasefire was inked, talks on a transitional government never began, and a mooted deal to allow aid into the besieged Old City of Homs went nowhere.

Opposition National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba said the regime had failed to show "serious commitment" during the negotiations.

"The talks were obviously not a success," said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Centre think-tank. "The other disappointing thing was that there was hope that the momentum would come from some sort of a deal on humanitarian access. That hasn't happened," he added.

The failure to secure humanitarian access ranks among the larger disappointments of the talks, dashing hopes that the government might ease its blockade of besieged rebel-held enclaves as a show of good will.

In the end, the regime offered to allow women and children to leave the Old City of Homs, but aid convoys on standby to enter were left waiting.

Desperately needed food did get into the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk on Thursday and Friday, but the plight of civilians trapped in the south Damascus camp had not even been on the agenda of the Geneva discussions.

The talks have also done nothing to slow the pace of killing in Syria, where more than 130,000 people have died since the conflict erupted in March 2011.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nearly 1,900 people were killed between the start of the talks on January 22 and their penultimate day on Thursday.

A second round of talks is proposed for Feburary 10, but Mr Muallem said he could not confirm the regime's participation without first consulting President Bashar al-Assad.

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