Direct Syrian peace talks in doubt amid acrimony over al-Assad's future

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Peace talks between Syria’s government and opposition ended in mutual hostility on Wednesday as differences emerged over the future of President Bashar al-Assad.

It was one of many contentious issues on the first day which divided all sides. There was only agreement that the road to a settlement would be long.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League joint special representative said: “We have no illusion that it’s going to be easy but we are going to try very hard.”

The Syrian government insists its people must decide on the future of President al-Assad and rejected calls for a prisoner exchange, some of whom it describes as “terrorists”.

Syrian Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi said: “We, as the Syrian delegation, came here to Geneva because we chose the political path to solve the situation but the political path is one thing and the fight against al Qaeda and ISIL and terrorist organisations in Syria is something else.”

The atmosphere raised fears that follow-up negotiations would never get off the ground due to differences and mutual mistrust with neither side seemingly willing to take confidence building measures. One opposition figure told euronews the Syrian government was employing stalling tactics.

‘‘They came to circle around issues and launch accusations and accuse everyone of supporting terror,” said Michel Kilo, member of Syria’s Opposition Coalition.

Kawtar Wakil, our correspondent at the one-day meeting in Montreux said there’s a huge gap between the two sides in conflict in Syria: “The Syrian regime and the opposition, both consider themselves more powerful than the other and refuse to make concessions. It appears that Geneva II will not be the basis for a peaceful solution, at least not in a short-term.”