Montreux (Switzerland) : UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi meets Syria’s warring sides behind closed doors on Thursday to gauge if they are willing to sit down face-to-face after the first day of a peace conference ended in bitter exchanges.
Brahimi will hold separate meetings with delegations from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the opposition before full talks resume in Geneva today.
The UN-sponsored conference – the biggest diplomatic effort yet to resolve Syria’s devastating civil war – opened in the Swiss town of Montreux yesterday with heated disagreements among the two sides and world powers. But neither side walked out and Brahimi said he would talk with both parties today to see “how best we can move forward”. “Do we go straight into one room and start discussing or do we talk a little bit more separately?… I don’t know yet,” Brahimi said.
Officials have said the talks could last between seven to 10 days and possibly resume after a break. Expectations are very low for a breakthrough at the conference, but diplomats believe that simply bringing the two sides together for the first time is a mark of some progress and could be an important first step.
With no one appearing ready for serious concessions, mediators will be looking for short-term deals to keep the process moving forward, including on localised ceasefires, freer humanitarian access and prisoner exchanges.