Officials: Syrian Government Blocking Progress in Peace Talks

The statement comes as Syria is under growing criticism for missing deadlines to hand over its chemical weapons.

Women shout slogans during a demonstration gathering activists, including Syrians living in Turkey, opposed to Syria's regime of President Bashar al-Assad after the Friday prayers on July 29, 2011 in front of the Syrian consulate in Istanbul. Assad's forces have killed at least 1,486 civilians since the anti-regime uprising began in mid-March, according to rights groups. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Jan. 31, 2014, 11:38 a.m.

Of­fi­cials from al­most a dozen coun­tries poin­ted to the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment as the reas­on ser­i­ous pro­gress wasn’t made in the talks end­ing Fri­day over stop­ping the coun­try’s civil war, ac­cord­ing to a com­mu­nique.

Seni­or of­fi­cials from Egypt, France, Ger­many, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Ar­a­bia, Tur­key, the United Ar­ab Emir­ates, the United King­dom, and the United States said the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment “must not fur­ther ob­struct sub­stan­tial ne­go­ti­ations and it must en­gage con­struct­ively in the second round of ne­go­ti­ations.”

A seni­or U.S. of­fi­cial said “we hope for a more sub­stant­ive dis­cus­sion in round two,” but pushed back against the no­tion of a quick agree­ment, adding that “this will be a long, hard ne­go­ti­ation. It’s a very bit­ter, very nasty con­flict on the ground in Syr­ia.”

The group also called on the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment to in­crease ac­cess to hu­man­it­ari­an aid, not­ing that “hun­dreds of thou­sands” of people are starving due to lack of ac­cess. The Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment has been ac­cused of us­ing star­va­tion as a weapon of war.

The U.S. of­fi­cial said there are ap­prox­im­ately 45,000 Syr­i­ans be­ing blocked from hu­man­it­ari­an aid by op­pos­i­tion groups.

“The next thing we’re look­ing for­ward to is a meet­ing in Rome,” the of­fi­cial said. The meet­ing — which will take place on Monday — will dis­cuss a U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil Pres­id­en­tial State­ment from last year re­gard­ing hu­man­it­ari­an aid ac­cess.

Syr­ia has been un­der cri­ti­cism this week as U.N. and U.S. of­fi­cials have sug­ges­ted they are delay­ing hand­ing over its chem­ic­al weapons ma­ter­i­al, which would be taken out of the coun­try and des­troyed.

“I don’t know that the chem­ic­als is­sue darkened the talks here, but there is a cred­ib­il­ity is­sue for the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment,” the U.S. of­fi­cial said re­fer­ring to the talks in Geneva.

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