U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura released on Friday a statement outlining ‘points of commonalities’ the parties in the Geneva talks had reached on the end-game for Syria after nearly seven years of war, following reports that the Syrian government was leaving the talks ahead of next week’s planned additional consultations.
De Mistura’s office said he wanted the parties to “to further reflect and offer their reactions” on the two main considerations – the drafting of a new Syrian constitution and holding of elections – next week.
“The Special Envoy has therefore requested the delegations to further reflect and offer their reactions on the living principles and to engage on baskets 2 (constitutional schedule and process) and 3 (elections) in talks next week.”
Talks are expected to resume on Tuesday.
The ’12 Living Intra-Syrian Essential Principles’ paper was distributed to the party delegations on Thursday and released on Friday following reports that the Syrian government delegation was pulling out over the opposition’s insistence that President Bashar al-Assad must go.
De Mistura had already extended the current round of talks until December 15, saying at a news conference on Thursday that the Syrian government delegation may return home for several days for consultations.
“We have … been talking about the rules of the game, and therefore reemphasizing: no preconditions,” he said.
On Monday, de Mistura said the eighth round of peace talks could move Syria’s warring sides toward “a genuine political process,” adding that the discussions would focus on fresh elections under the roadmap approved by the U.N. Security Council.
However, Reuters on Friday cited Syrian chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari as saying the delegation considered the talks over:
“For us (this) round is over, as a government delegation. He as mediator can announce his own opinion,” Jaafari said, referring to the U.N. envoy.
He further said talks could not progress as long as the opposition stuck to its decision adopted last week in Riyadh that Assad would have to be excluded from a transitional government.
“We cannot engage in serious discussion in Geneva while the Riyadh statement is not withdrawn,” he told the al-Mayadeen television network.
In his statement released by the Syrian Arab News Agency, Jaafari pointed out that holding the talks with preconditions – such as those agreed to by the opposition in Riyadh 2 – contravene U.N. Security Council resolution 2254. De Mistura for his part has stressed that the Geneva talks will not include any preconditions for either side.
“It is Damascus that will decide that,” Jaafari said when asked if the government delegation would return to Geneva next week.