|Russia, US split casts shadow over Syria Geneva talks|
|Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:43|
Earlier, Russia said there was a “very good chance” of finding common ground.
But a US official said areas of “difficulty and difference” remained with Moscow, which sees Syria as its closest ally in the Middle East.
Some 15 800 people have died in the 16-month anti-government uprising in Syria, rights groups say.
Violence has continued, despite a nominal ceasefire brokered by Mr Annan.
More than 180 people were killed last Friday, rights groups said, after Syrian forces shelled a suburb of the capital Damascus and the restive central city of Homs.
One Syrian human rights group said about 4 700 of the 15 800 killed since the uprising began had died since mid-April, when the ceasefire was supposed to enter into force.
Arriving at the talks in Geneva, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said reaching agreement on Syria remained “very difficult”.
“It’s always been our view, of course, that a stable future for Syria, a real political process, means (President Bashar al-) Assad leaving power.”
Russia has been hostile to any solution that would see Mr Assad forced out.
Meanwhile, Mr Assad said he would not accept any solution to his country’s crisis imposed from outside.
He told Iranian television that it was an “internal issue” which had “nothing to do with foreign countries”, stressing that no amount of foreign pressure would make his government change its policy on internal security.
Western powers, Russia, Turkey and Arab countries including Qatar are taking part in the Geneva meeting.
Yesterday’s conference in Geneva was called by Mr Annan, as the violence intensified in Syria.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in St Petersburg on Friday in an effort to agree a consensus formula to end the bloodshed. After leaving the talks with Mrs Clinton, Mr Lavrov said: “We have a very good chance to find common ground at the conference in Geneva tomorrow (yesterday).
“I felt a change in Hillary Clinton’s position. There were not ultimatums. Not a word was said that the document we will discuss in Geneva is untouchable.”
But a US state department official later told reporters: “There are still areas of difficulty and difference.”
Mr Annan wants support for an interim government that could include opposition members and officials serving under Mr Assad, but exclude those “whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardise stability and reconciliation”, his spokesman said. Diplomats said this was an implicit reference to the Syrian president. — BBC