The eighth round of Syrian peace talks sponsored by the UN ended on Thursday without reaching any agreement. According to United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, neither side of the Syrian government nor the Syrian opposition is deliberately responsible for sabotaging the talks. However, he reportedly stated that most of the blame falls on the delegation of the Syrian government that withdrew from the talks.
Syrian opposition stated earlier that they did not set the removal of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as a precondition for the peace talks, yet his departure remains their ultimate goal. The statement was made by Basma Kodami, a leading member of the opposition on 12 December, the Guardian reported.
Regardless, the delegation of the Syrian government reportedly refused to discuss any issue related to the constitutional process or the presidential elections, although the two topics were on the agenda of the talks. However, the governmental delegation was determined to discuss “terrorism” only. De Mistura mentioned that without Russia putting pressure on Al-Asaad, he may have deemed taking part in the talks as altogether unnecessary.
The failed talks, however, leave the door open for Russia to reach a political settlement at the Sochi conference, a Syrian dialogue conference to be held in Russia. The conference was scheduled to take place before the Geneva talks, but will now be held in February, amid criticism from the West.
Outside the table of negotiations, Russia remains a powerful military actor on the scene. Last Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Syria, during which he ordered the withdrawal of Russia’s military, hinting that the mission of his country’s troops was a success.