UN MEDIATOR Lakhdar Brahimi says the first phase of the Syria peace talks in Geneva will end tomorrow as scheduled, and that the gap between the government and opposition is still “quite large”.
Speaking to reporters last night, Mr Brahimi said he did not expect any substantial achievements over the next two days. Still, he said, the “ice is breaking slowly”. He said both sides would decide tomorrow on the timing of the second phase of the talks.
Earlier yesterday, both sides managed to discuss the thorniest issue – the opposition’s demand for a transitional government in Syria. But president Bashar al-Assad’s adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban, said it would be difficult to hold a presidential election in Syria, given the raging violence of the civil war, and she rejected a transitional governing body.
Louay Safi, a spokesman for the opposition’s negotiating teams, said the issue of a transitional government was put on the table for the first time. But he added that the government delegation stuck to its stance that an end to terrorism was its main priority.
“Today we had a positive step forward, because for the first time we are talking about the transitional body, the body whose responsibility is to end dictatorship and move toward democracy and end the fighting and misery in Syria,” he said.
The government seemed “more ready to discuss that issue, but still they’re trying to push it to the back of the discussion”, Mr Safi said, adding: “We told them that this has to come first.”
Ms Shaaban said the opposition seemed more willing yesterday to talk about terrorism, and she described the day’s talks as constructive.
“The problem is that they’re only interested in government, not interested in putting an end to this war,” she said,