Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Renault's women drivers ad deemed sexist

Read more

FOCUS

Constitution prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

War and Markets, with Steen Jakobsen, Chief Economist at Saxo Bank

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

France commemorates a hero of the left

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Diplomatic strain for John Kerry

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Germany and Russia 'discuss secret Ukraine deal'

Read more

WEB NEWS

Fake Twitter accounts spread Chinese propaganda

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Argentina set for deeper recession after default

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Former WHO Deputy Regional Director for Africa

Read more

  • Paris hosts its first pro-Israel rally since start of Gaza offensive

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new game plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • Israel calls up 16,000 more reservists as Gaza death toll soars

    Read more

  • France remembers murdered socialist hero Jean Jaurès

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Sierra Leone declares state of emergency over Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • Investigators reach MH17 crash site amid 24-hour ceasefire

    Read more

  • Video: Inside Hamas ‘terror’ tunnels in Gaza

    Read more

  • Scores feared dead in India landslide

    Read more

  • Russia ordered to pay further €1.9 billion to Yukos shareholders

    Read more

  • Iraq's Christians: Nowhere to Run?

    Read more

  • Russia defiant as US, EU unveil 'phase three' sanctions

    Read more

  • US House votes to sue Obama for over-reaching his powers

    Read more

  • Argentina fails to reach deal with creditors

    Read more

Middle east

World powers gather in Geneva for Syria crisis talks

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-06-30

World powers meet Saturday in Geneva to discuss the Syrian crisis, a day after talks between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stalled over Russia's opposition to forming an interim Syrian government.

AFP - World powers meet Saturday in a desperate bid to salvage international envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan for Syria to end 16 months of bloodshed and agree on a transition plan for the strife-hit country.

A crunch meeting hours ahead of the talks between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov led Moscow to issue an upbeat outlook for the conference, saying a deal was likely.

But Washington took a more cautious line, warning of persistent differences between the US' and Russia's approach and dampening hopes of crucial progress needed to stop the crisis that according to rights monitors has left 15,800 dead since March last year.

Annan had announced the meeting on Tuesday, inviting Clinton, Lavrov, and the foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Iraq, Qatar, Turkey and Kuwait to the talks, and conspicuously leaving Iran and Saudi Arabia out.

He circulated a proposal on a "Syrian-led transition" that could help save his peace process that has been largely ignored by both the ruling regime and opposition since it came in force on April 12.

Fighting has only intensified in recent weeks and rights monitors said more than 230 people -- most of them civilians -- had been killed across the strategic Middle East country since Thursday.

But doubts grew over the fate of Saturday's meeting as it drew nearer, due to Russian opposition to Annan's proposal on the composition of an interim Syrian government.

Annan's draft, seen by AFP, sees power handed to an interim Syrian team without those "whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardise stability and reconciliation."

The wording appears to imply -- without saying so directly -- that President Bashar al-Assad would have to relinquish his grip on the presidency for the idea to succeed.

Russia angrily rejected the suggestion, while Western powers warned there was no point meeting in Geneva if there was no prior agreement on the issue.

But after Friday evening's talks with Clinton, Lavrov said he "detected a shift" in Washington's approach to ending the bloodshed that no longer involved a specific demand for Assad to leave.

"There were no ultimatums. Not a word was said about the document now being discussed in Geneva being completely untouchable," Lavrov told reporters in reference to wording that suggest no future role for Assad.

"I can confidently say that we have a very good chance tomorrow in Geneva to find a common denominator and mark a path forward," Lavrov added.

"We agreed to find a consensus that rests on a clear understanding... that the Syrian sides must be stimulated toward dialogue, but that the decision to what the state looks like and who occupies which posts can only be decided by the Syrians themselves."

A conflicting message came from Lavrov's deputy, Gennady Gatilov, who tweeted early on Saturday that experts in Geneva had thus far failed to agree to the wording of a final document on Syria because "the Western partners want to determine the political process themselves."

The US account of the Lavrov-Clinton meeting was also more measured and appeared to suggest little agreement on the future of Assad.

A senior US State Department official noted some progress while conceding that "there were still areas of difficulty and difference" between the approaches of Russia and the United States.

"But out of respect to Kofi Annan, they agreed we should all go to Geneva tomorrow to try to produce a result," said the official.

Iran's UN ambassador Mohammed Khazaee meanwhile criticised the exclusion of Tehran from the meeting, hitting out at Western powers, "particularly the United States," for ignoring the "power and influence of Iran."

The United States and European nations opposed the presence of Iran, a long time ally of Assad. Diplomats said Russia opposed Saudi Arabia because of its support for the Syrian opposition.
 

Date created : 2012-06-30

  • SYRIA

    Twin explosions strike near high court in Damascus

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    Syria witnessing a 'state of war', Assad tells cabinet

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    Annan proposes transitional government for Syria

    Read more

COMMENT(S)