GENEVA: Syria’s government handed an ultimatum to a U.N. mediator hoping to broker peace in the country’s civil war, vowing to leave if “serious talks” do not begin by Saturday.
The government delegation that traveled to Geneva met for less than 90 minutes Friday with U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi as part of a peace conference that has been on the verge of falling apart ever since it was conceived.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told Brahimi that if “serious talks don’t begin Saturday, the official Syrian delegation will have to leave because the other party is not serious or ready,” according to Syrian state television.
Direct talks planned for Friday between the Syrian government and the Western-backed Syrian opposition were scrapped, and the opposition was to meet separately with Brahimi later.
The Syrian government blamed the opposition Syrian National Coalition for the lack of direct negotiations, which were seen as the best hope for an eventual end to the three-year civil war that has killed at least 130,000 people.
The bloodshed has destabilized the entire region and turned Syria into a magnet for al-Qaida-inspired militants.
As the peace conference faltered, fighting raged throughout parts of Syria. Government forces bombed rebel-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and local activists. Fighting also raged in towns around the capital Damascus, activists reported.