Though the talks dragged on for over a week, the Geneva II peace conference on Syria ended without any real deals on any issues of important, and both the Syrian government and the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) traded insults before leaving.
The issue that was closest to being resolved, the siege of central Homs, likewise remained totally unresolved, with UN officials saying both sides were slapping unrealistic preconditions on allowing aid in.
The Syrian government offered to let women and children leave, but said that men leaving would have to give their names at checkpoints, and this would almost certainly mean arrest, as has happened in previous cases where rebel-held areas were lost.
The SNC didn’t necessarily have preconditions of its own, but the rebel fighters inside Homs did, threatening to attack UN aid convoys that try to enter the city on sight. They are opposing aid in general, and say they will only accept a deal that allows everyone in the Old City area of Homs to leave, and take their weapons with them, to other rebel-held areas. Needless to say, that’s also a non-starter.
The preconditions on this and other areas of discussion left both sides plenty of ammunition to declare the other uninterested in making peace, and foreign powers at the talks used this as a pretext to verbally bludgeon whichever side they opposed in the first place.
UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, whose efforts are the only reason the talks didn’t end on the first day, says he believes there is still some common ground and room to negotiate, and he is trying to arrange a resumption of the conference on February 10. Whether this happens remains to be seen, but the Assad government is said to be non-commtital about any more talks, and after the trainwreck of this week, it’s hard to blame them for being pessimistic.