US blames Assad government for Syria talks failure

Washington will not restore ties with Damascus without progress on peace and reform talks

Ahmad Kuzbari, co-chair for the Syrian Government, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen and Hadi al-Bahra, co-chair for the Syrian opposition, speak during the meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland October 31, 2019. Martial Trezzini/Pool via REUTERS

The US on Wednesday blamed Syria’s government for the “disappointing” failure of talks this month aimed at bringing peace to the country after more than a decade of war.

Richard Mills, the deputy US envoy to the UN, expressed “frustration” with the government of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad over the collapse of reform talks in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Syrian Constitutional Committee, comprising government, opposition and civil society members, made scant progress last week and no date was set for the next meeting.

“This most recent round, which started with such promise, ended up as one more missed opportunity by the regime to show its sincere commitment to the committee's work,” Mr Mills said in New York.

He urged panellists to “change their unproductive behaviour” and negotiate in “good faith”, saying Washington would not restore diplomatic ties with Damascus without progress on a reform package.

“The US government will neither normalise relations with the Assad regime nor will we support efforts to do so until we see irreversible progress towards a political solution,” Mr Mills told the UN Security Council.

Envoys to the sixth round of talks did not agree on draft texts about reforming the war-torn country’s government.

Geir Pedersen, the UN peace envoy who shepherds the constitutional committee, called it a “disappointment”.

He told the 15-nation UN council he hoped to arrange dates for a seventh round of talks.

“Progress on the constitution committee could, if done the right way, help to build some trust and confidence,” said Mr Pedersen.

“But let me stress that this requires real determination and the political will to try to get some common ground.”

The talks followed a nine-month gap from the previous meeting. Past rounds made little progress on devising a new constitution.

The war’s front lines are largely unchanging and Mr Al Assad’s forces, with foreign support, have recaptured most of the country, giving him little reason to negotiate with opponents.

Syria’s war has killed as many as 450,000 and displaced half the country’s prewar 23 million people, including some five million refugees mostly in neighbouring countries.

Updated: October 27th 2021, 9:40 PM