World powers fail to set new date for Syria peace talks

The 17 nation group renewed calls for a national cessation of hostilities and the allowance of humanitarian aid throughout the country. These two objectives seem to have a modicum of support across the board, however a third objective was a sticking point. The “framework for a political transition” is incredibly contentious, with Russia and the United States ever at loggerheads of how to resolve the issue. 

“The target for August is to have a framework in place, a framework agreed, for a political transition. We’re talking to the Russians, trying to get a better environment for the political negotiations, particularly on the regime side,” a US official said, according to The Local Austria.

US officials are adamant Assad should go, aiming for an August 1 deadline on the framework for doing so. Yet support from Iran and Russia for the beleaguered dictator has given the war months, if not years, more to run. United Nations talks in Geneva headed by the UN’s Envoy for the region Staffan de Mistura have failed. 

A pessimistic atmosphere pervaded the meeting in Vienna between countries that support President Bashar al-Assad and his enemies, all of which have committed to reviving a ceasefire and peace process that have been unraveling since last month.

In a joint statement after the meeting attended by the United States, European and Middle East powers that oppose Assad as well as Russia and Iran which support him, the powers called for a full cessation of hostilities and access for aid.

In stronger language than in the past, they warned the warring factions that if they repeatedly broke the truce they risked forgoing the protection of the February 27 cessation of hostilities agreement sponsored by Washington and Moscow.

They also directed the U.N.’s World Food Programme to air drop food, medicine and water to besieged communities starting on June 1 if humanitarian access was denied by either side.

But they did not agree on a date for peace talks to resume.

Iran’s position at the ISSG has also been criticized.

Some Syrians have also expressed anger at the support given to Assad by Iranian forces.

Some still living in Syria have posted photos of themselves holding signs telling the ISSG that inviting the Iranian delegation is the same as inviting their killers to the meeting, according to The Local.

The message written on one sign calls for the Iranian regime to be “held accountable for their crimes committed in Syria in the past five years.”

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) described the inviting of Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to the talks as “tantamount to asking an arsonist to take part in putting out the fire.”

“The Iranian regime has been the main reason for the Assad dictatorship’s survival. Without the mullahs’ massive military intervention and full-fledged support for Assad, his regime would have been overthrown a long time ago,” said the NCRI’s Shahin Gobadi in a statement to The Local Austria. (Based in part on wire reports)