The UN Arab League envoy to Syria has said that rival Syrian delegations could return for a second round of peace talks on February 10, to build on the “modest beginning” and “very slow” progress of closed-door negotiations.
Lakhdar Brahimi said on Friday that the talks between Syria’s regime and opposition have made slim progress, but have raised hopes for a solution to the country’s civil war.
“I think there are some elements that can offer a beginning, ground to stand on,” Brahimi told reporters after a week of closed-door negotiations wrapped up in Geneva.
The UN envoy said that getting the government and the main opposition bloc to talk to each other for the first time in three years was a feat in itself.
Brahimi said he saw some positive steps and common ground but the gaps between the sides “remain wide”.
“Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged in an acceptable manner,” Brahimi said. “This is a very modest beginning, but it is a beginning on which we can build.”
The opposition delegation has already agreed to a February 10 date, but the government said it would need to consult with Damascus first.
Brahimi said: “For all the Syrians trapped in this war, our work here will seem far too slow. But we are trying to overcome the very difficult issues that have led to this war, and this unfortunately takes time.”
One of the most contentious issues of the week-long negotiations has been the issue of a transitional government, a key element of the Geneva II discussions.
The Syrian opposition says that President Bashar al-Assad must leave power, while the government says his role is not up for debate.
Syria’s opposition spokesman, Louay Safi, told Al Jazeera: “There is no way there could be progress without establishing a governing transitional body with authority to deal with political and military matters.”
Later, in a news conference on Friday afternoon, Safi said the Assad regime had been forced to the negotiating table thanks to the actions of Syrian rebels.
“This is the result of the fighting of the Syrian people. Today the regime is forced to negotiate with a delegation representing the aspirations of the Syrian people,” he told reporters.