Syria’s warring sides are meeting in Geneva in a last-ditch effort to save deadlocked peace talks amid fears that they could collapse altogether.
The second round of talks appeared close to fizzling out on Friday, but UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi at the last moment invited the two sides to come back for a final joint meeting Saturday morning.
After days of discussions, the rivals stood further apart than ever, seeming to agree on only one thing: that the negotiations were going nowhere.
‘We deeply regret that this round did not make any progress,’ Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad said after meeting Brahimi on Friday.
Opposition spokesman Louay Safi agreed: ‘The negotiations have reached an impasse.’
As the parties in Geneva failed to agree even on an agenda for their talks, the death toll mounted in Syria, where more than 136,000 people have been killed in three years.
A monitoring group this week that more than 5000 people had been killed since a first round of talks began on January 22.
The United Nations warned on Friday that more than 2700 refugees had poured across the Lebanese border as the Syrian army carries out an offensive in the Qalamun mountains and heads towards the opposition-held town of Yabrud.
Thousands had already fled the town, but as many as 50,000 people were believed to still be inside.
Washington expressed outrage at the aerial bombings and siege of the city.
‘We again call on all members of the international community, including Assad’s allies, to make clear to the regime that it must immediately cease these unwarranted attacks that undermine the Geneva process and the prospects of peace in Syria,’ State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said.