- (Photo: Reuters/George Ourfalian)
The Syrian government is blaming the United States for creating a "negative climate" around the major U.N. peace talks in Geneva that ended in failure last week, as fighting in the war-torn country continues with no end in sight.
Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, said that the American government tried to "create a very negative climate for dialogue in Geneva," The Associated Press reported on Sunday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has repeatedly insisted that the only way forward for the Middle Eastern country is if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad steps down, something which the leader has not given any indication that he is considering. Instead, the nearly three-year-old war between Assad's forces and rebel factions seeking to remove him from power continues.
Over 100,000 people are said to have been killed in the conflict, though the U.N. admitted in January that it has stopped updating the official death toll due to difficulty in verifying sources in the region. Activists on the other hand have said that over 140,000 have died.
Although the Syrian peace talks began in hopes that the two sides will be able to come to an agreement to at least stop the fighting, in which minority groups like Christians have been caught in the fire, they ended with U.N. and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi apologizing to the Syrian people for failing to meet those objectives.
"I am very, very sorry, and I apologize to the Syrian people that their hopes which were very, very high that something will happen here," Brahimi said Sunday.
Moreover, the Syrian government and the rebel forces affirmed their commitment to achieving victory in the conflict.
"I have come here to say we are with you. We are connected with this land and will not compromise on the values of this revolution, we will get rid of this corrupt and criminal family who has been ruling this country for decades," Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba told rebel fighters after traveling to the Idlib province, The Financial Times reported.
A former rebel fighter, identified as Ahmed, added that the rebel groups attended the peace talks so that they are not called terrorists who are unwilling to negotiate.
"Talks will never work with the brutal regime. We believe only in strength, nothing but fighting against Bashar al-Assad with the help of the international community, when it means to actually help in bringing him down," the fighter said.
The World Evangelical Alliance, which had spoken out on the importance of the Geneva talks and urged leaders to give voice to the many Christians and minority groups facing violent attacks in Syria, shared of its "extreme disappointment" earlier in February when the first round of talks showed little progress.
"We are extremely disappointed that very little progress was made in the recent peace talks. No one believed it was going to be easy to get agreement," Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO and secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance, shared in an email with The Christian Post at the time.
"We are deeply concerned for the Christian community in Syria. Like all minority groups they need protection from the very real threats that have been made against them. In addition, it is imperative that as the future shape of Syria is being determined, Christians who have had a presence in the land for two thousand years be represented," Tunnicliffe added in a statement before the conference.