Third round of Syria talks urgently needed: UN chief

AFP , Monday 3 Mar 2014

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrives for a press conference at the opening of the High-Level Segment of the 25. session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, March 3, 2014 (Photo: AP)

UN chief Ban stressed Monday the urgency of relaunching the Syrian peace process, urging Damascus in particular to return to Geneva with a more "constructive position."

"The only way to end the crisis is through a negotiated solution," he told reporters on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council, adding: "We are determined to bring the parties back to the table here in Geneva."

The UN-led Geneva II peace talks broke down on February 15 when a second round of talks ended with no new date set for them to reconvene.

The UN Secretary General said he had had a long talk Sunday with Lakhdar Brahimi, who has been mediating the talks on behalf of the UN and the Arab League.

The two had concluded that "it is important that the third round of the Geneva conference should be held again as soon as possible," he said, pointing out that next week would mark three years since the start of the Syrian crisis.

"How long should this situation continue this way," he said of the conflict which has killed more than 140,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

He stressed though that there was first an "urgent need for the parties, and those with influence over them, to reflect on how the talks can achieve the progress the Syrian people and the region so urgently need."

The Geneva II talks broke down with the regime insisting on giving priority to "terrorism" it blames on the opposition, which in turn wanted to concentrate on putting in place a transitional government, without President Bashar al-Assad.

The regime delegation balked at Brahimi's proposal that the parties alternate between the subjects, insisting nothing else could be discussed until the "terrorism" issue had been completely resolved.

"Particularly the Syrian ... government delegation has not been constructively engaging in dialogue," Ban said, stressing the responsibility of Damascus's key ally Russia and the United States, which backs the opposition, to push the process forward.

"There must be ... a much stronger political will by the world leaders, particularly leaders who are directly concerned and also those leaders who have influence over the parties in conflict, to resolve all these issues through dialogue," he said.

Ban, who met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva Monday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine but also the Syria conflict, urged any "powers who have influence on the government as well as the opposition forces to exert their influences."

"All parties (should) come to Geneva as soon as possible with a sincere and constructive position," he said.

His comments came as news broke that Mokhtar Lamani, who heads Brahimi's Damascus office, was quitting.

No explanation was given for his departure, but he had expressed disappointment at the failure of the Geneva II talks and argued they had been launched too quickly.

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