News World UN ‘very sorry’ as Syria talks break off
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UN ‘very sorry’ as Syria talks break off

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· Syria death toll now 140,000

The UN’s Syria envoy says he is “very, very sorry” after Geneva peace talks broke off without result, throwing the future of the negotiations to end the bloody conflict into doubt.

Just weeks after the warring parties sat down for the first time to seek a political settlement to the three-year conflict, a second round ended in acrimony on Saturday.

“I’m very, very sorry,” UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters in Geneva without being able to set a date for a third round.

“I think it is better that every side goes back and reflects, and takes their responsibility: do they want this process to continue or not?”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague decried the situation as “a serious setback in the search for peace in Syria”.

With no guarantee the parties will return to the negotiating table, the death toll continued to mount in Syria where more than 140,000 have died and millions have been driven from their homes.

A monitoring group said last week more than 5000 people had been killed since the talks began on January 22.

And the UN raised the alarm over Syrian air raids in the Qalamun mountains near the Lebanese border, as thousands fled the opposition-held town of Yabrud amid fears of a ground assault.

In Geneva, the rivals seemed to agree on only one thing: the negotiations were going nowhere.

“The regime is not serious … There is nothing positive we can take from this,” opposition spokesman Louay Safi told reporters after the talks.

The head of the regime’s negotiating team Bashar Jaafari described the other side as “amateurs”, blaming the opposition’s backer the United States for “trying its best to undermine the whole process.”

Brahimi noted that the two sides had at least finally agreed on an agenda for possible future talks.

“I very much hope there will be a third round,” Brahimi said.

The opposition says the focus must be on creating a transitional government, without President Bashar al-Assad.

The regime representatives have insisted Assad’s position is non-negotiable and refused to discuss anything beyond the “terrorism” it blames on its opponents and their foreign backers.

Brahimi said if the sides returned, they would discuss violence and terrorism first, then the transitional governing body (TGB), followed by national institutions and finally national reconciliation and national debate.

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