The latest round of U.N.-brokered Syrian peace talks has failed to produce any progress, with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura blaming Syrian government delegates for rejecting any dialogue with the opposition.
"I did not see the government really looking to find a way to have a dialogue and negotiate during this round," he told reporters after the eighth round of talks ended in Geneva on Thursday.
While the opposition presented no preconditions, the government demanded that the other side withdraw a previous statement that had called for the resignation of President Bashar Assad, de Mistura said.
Assad's envoys did not even want to interact with the opposition indirectly through U.N. intermediaries, de Mistura added.
De Mistura and his team, therefore, only held separate meetings with both sides.
While the opposition was ready to talk about a new Syrian constitution and U.N.-led elections, government envoys only wanted to talk about terrorism in the country and not about political change, according to de Mistura."We did not have real negotiations," he said. "A golden opportunity was missed."
De Mistura plans a new round of talks in January, but he said he would have to come up with new ideas to move the process forward next time, such as presenting his own outlines for a constitution and elections.
Nasr al-Hariri, the head of the opposition negotiating team, said the Geneva talks are "in great danger" and the U.N. and the international community are responsible for protecting it.
"The Syrian regime is challenging and undermining the global community by obstructing" ways to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, Hariri told reporters in Geneva.
He stressed that peace negotiations need two sides and that the Syrian regime delegation had refused to carry out any direct talks.
Yehia Aridi, an opposition spokesman, also accused the Syrian government of stalling.
"They simply follow the rule either we govern or we destroy Syria," Aridi told dpa from Geneva.
The Syrian government's chief negotiator, Bashar al-Jaafari, said his side would not engage in any dialogue with the opposition unless they cancel a recent statement issued in Saudi Arabia, which once again insisted on Assad's departure.
He also accused Saudi Arabia and Western powers that back the opposition of "sabotaging" this round of talks because "they do not want the Geneva process to succeed as a political solution."
De Mistura had said Wednesday that Russia should prod Damascus into working to reach a peace accord.
In recent months, government forces supported by allied Russian forces have made major territorial gains against the Western-backed opposition as well as militant groups, including Daesh.
Earlier on Thursday, government forces foiled a suicide attack targeting an intelligence building near Damascus, security sources and state media reported.
A security patrol vehicle chased a suspicious car on the southern outskirts of the capital city, which sources said had been targeting the building.
The vehicle exploded, killing the would-be bomber without causing any further casualties, they said.Similar blasts have hit Damascus in the past months. In October, a series of simultaneous suicide attacks killed at least five people in central Damascus.