Syria and the U.N. are pointing the finger of blame at one another for the failure of recent talks aimed at resolving the over-six-year Syrian civil war.
Syrian chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari said the Syrian opposition – led by top supporter Saudi Arabia – was setting a pre-condition of the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of discussions.
“We do not put preconditions, but we object to the preconditions,” he said, stressing that the Syrian government rejects the imposition of any fait accompli by outside forces.
The diplomat also accused the opposition, backed by Western countries and Saudi Arabia, of sabotaging the latest Geneva talks.
Jaafari said Damascus did not want the talks to fail but the opposition had put down a precondition last month by concluding a conference known as "Riyadh 2" with a declaration that Assad had no role in Syria's political transition.
“In view of our conviction of what is happening on the ground (being) a terrorist war, we have talked about terrorism in a fundamental way because the fight against terrorism is the basic approach to the rest of the four baskets,” he added, noting that “most of the sessions of the current round in Geneva focused on the need to cancel the other party to Riyadh 2 statement in order to focus on discussion of the four baskets.”
Jaafari said that anyone who wants to participate in the counterterrorism operation should coordinate with the Syrian government and respect its sovereignty rather than relying on an illegal military presence on the Syrian territory.
While admitting his own failure in failing to generate new ideas, U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura continued to lay most of the blame for the failure of the round at the feet of the government side.
The U.N. envoy said he was "disappointed," after going in with ambitions to get the two sides to talk to each other, but disagreed with Damascus' continued description of opposition forces as “terrorists.”
"The goal we had was to bring about real negotiations," de Mistura told a news conference. "Let me be frank. We did not achieve, we did not achieve these negotiations. In other words, negotiations, in reality, did not take place.
"I would conclude by saying (it was) a big missed opportunity. A golden opportunity at the end of this year when in fact there is a clear indication by many sides that the military operations are coming to a close."
De Mistura voiced milder disappointment with the Syrian opposition after they arrived in Geneva ruling out any future role for Assad. But he said that tough public stance had been tempered by a mature position in the closed-door discussions.
De Mistura said he was leaving Geneva for consultations in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, followed by a meeting with the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
"I will probably need to come up with new ideas, parameters, about how to move the talks forward, particularly on constitution and elections," he said, adding that plans for a new round of Geneva talks in January depended on their outcome.