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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

The UN's 12-point Syrian charter is a glimmer of hope after regime snub

The clock has not even begun ticking on the peacebuilding process but every second counts for starving Syrians

The talks in Geneva seemed destined to fail even before they began for the simple reason that Bashar Al Assad never accorded them any seriousness / EPA
The talks in Geneva seemed destined to fail even before they began for the simple reason that Bashar Al Assad never accorded them any seriousness / EPA

As the Syrian regime quit peace talks and threatened not to return, even the UN's chief negotiator was stumped for words. Asked if he could give any promise of the cessation of violence or the likelihood of free and fair elections, Staffan de Mistura's only response was to point skywards and say: "The only guarantee can come from there." It should come as little surprise that Bashar Al Assad is once again trying to put a stranglehold on any talks which might end his totalitarian and barbaric regime for good. The eighth round of Syrian peace talks seemed destined to fail from the outset because Mr Al Assad never accorded them the gravitas they deserved, refusing to attend himself and sending a flunkey on his behalf a day late, who stormed out when it became clear Mr Al Assad has no place in a free, democratic Syria. UN officials were left in the absurd position of having to "shuttle" between two rooms five metres apart because the regime representative Bashar Al Jaafari refused to meet the opposition delegation face to face, branding them "terrorists" with no legitimacy.

Mr Al Assad clearly expects the opposition – and the world – to acquiesce to his plan to remain in power in perpetuity. His chief negotiator accused the opposition of “provocative, irresponsible” demands yet the reality is that the opposition arrived in Geneva with no preconditions other than to end a seven-year war. As UN humanitarian advisor Jan Egeland said, men with power were sitting while children in Syria were dying every day.

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Read more on Syria:

Syrian government negotiator quits Geneva talks, says may not return

UN Special Envoy seeks to bring sides back to the table in Syria peace talks in Geneva

Editorial: Ordinary Syrians are caught in a game of political chess where the stakes are life and death

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Mr Al Assad’s objective is to hold the entire process hostage until the demand for his permanent hold on power is accepted. The sole source of hope in this tragic saga is Mr De Mistura, who, despite crushing setbacks, has identified 12 points of commonality between the two parties that offer a glimmer of optimism for "the kind of Syria that Syrians want to live in" – if all parties return to the table. But even a man as capable as the UN special envoy cannot achieve success alone; he needs international support if he is to make any progress. The clock has not even begun ticking for a peacebuilding process, he said. Meanwhile, every second counts for the millions of starving, dying Syrians, brutalised and tortured by one man's oppressive regime, whose time has long been up.

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