Reuters reports: Syria’s first peace talks came close to collapsing before they began on Friday, with the opposition refusing to meet President Bashar al-Assad’s delegation and the government threatening to bring its team home.
Still, figures on both sides later seemed to moderate their positions, expressing a willingness to meet their enemies.
The opposition said early on Friday that 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. [Continue reading…]