Syria’s warring sides have traded barbs over the failure to achieve concrete results at peace talks in Geneva, amid doubts over the regime’s participation in a planned new round in February.
No ceasefire was agreed, talks on a transitional government never began, and a deal to allow aid into besieged rebel-held areas of the central city of Homs went nowhere.
After a week of closed-door negotiations wrapped up in Geneva, UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he aimed to get the rival camps back to the table from February 10.
“The delegation of the opposition agreed to this date. That of the government said they needed to consult with Damascus first”, Brahimi told reporters on Friday.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said President Bashar al-Assad and his government would ponder the next step, with the negotiators returning if the public demanded it.
That sparked criticism from key opposition supporter the US.
“The regime continues to play games,” State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said.
Opposition chief Ahmad Jarba confirmed his team would be back, even though sitting down with the regime for the first time since the war erupted in 2011 was like “drinking from a poisoned chalice”.
But he stressed that its presence was conditional on receiving “the means to defend our people on the ground,” according to an official translation of his Arabic speech in Geneva.
“The pace of supporting our revolutionaries is quickening, as you may have heard in recent days,” he said.
Media reports this week alleged that the US Congress had secretly approved funding for weapons deliveries to “moderate” Syrian rebel factions.
Working to rally support, Jarba was scheduled on Tuesday to visit Russia, Assad’s main ally on the global stage.
Before that he was to attend the annual Munich Security Conference, where Brahimi was also scheduled to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the US and Russian top diplomats.
The regime also struck a combative tone on the last day of the talks.
“Neither in this round, nor in the next will they obtain any concessions from the Syrian delegation,” Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi told applauding pro-regime demonstrators outside the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva where the talks were held.
With the regime accusing the opposition of being the plaything of foreigners, Zohbi said his message was equally destined for Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and anti-Assad politicians in deeply-divided neighbour Lebanon.
Muallem said there were no “tangible results” from the Geneva talks – the biggest international diplomatic push so far to end three years of war – and blamed the rival delegation.
“They acted as if we had wanted to come here for one hour and hand over everything to them… It’s indicative of the illusions that they are living under,” he said.
Jarba rejected that hands down, saying there was no “serious engagement” from a regime that was “walking in its own funeral procession”.
The talks revolved around a roadmap drawn up by world powers in 2012 that called for negotiated political transition in Syria.
The opposition insists that the 2012 plan known as the Geneva Communique requires Assad to step down – something flatly rejected by the regime.