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Syria says US created “negative climate” in Geneva

Updated Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014 | 10:22 a.m.

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's foreign minister on Sunday accused the United States of trying to create a "negative climate" for dialogue at the second round of peace talks in Geneva.

The comments by Walid al-Moallem come a day after the meetings between Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and the opposition seeking his ouster ended without finding a way of breaking the impasse in the nearly three-year-old conflict.

Al-Moallem spoke to the state news service about the talks as the Syrian delegation was returning from Switzerland to Damascus on Sunday. He said the U.S. tried to "create a very negative climate for dialogue in Geneva."

Syria's conflict started as largely peaceful protests against Assad in March 2011 but later degenerated into a civil war in which more than 140,000 people have been killed, according to activists.

The U.N.'s human rights office said in January it has stopped updating the death toll from the war, confirming that it can no longer verify the sources of information that led to its last count of at least 100,000 in late July.

Millions have been driven out of their homes, seeking shelter in neighboring countries and in safer parts of their homeland.

Washington, its European and Persian Gulf allies are backing the opposition in Syria's conflict. Russia and Iran are supporting Assad's government.

U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi apologized to the Syrian people for failing to reach progress.

"I am very, very sorry, and I apologize to the Syrian people that their hopes which were very, very high that something will happen here," Brahimi said Sunday.

More than 5,792 people have reportedly have been killed in Syria since the talks began on Jan. 22 in Geneva, activists said.

Brahimi explained to reporters in Geneva that the second round of talks ended Saturday with the Syrian government refusing to discuss how to create a transitional government body, as the opposition and its Western backers insist.

Ending violence and combating terrorism had been the main thrust of the government's stance in Geneva, and both were put up for discussions.

"Unfortunately the government has refused, which raises the suspicion of the opposition that in fact the government doesn't want to discuss the TGB (transitional governing body) at all," Brahimi said.

The mediator would consult with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about a way forward.