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Bashar al-Jaafari blames Saudis, UN for talks failure

Chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari accuses UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura of undermining eighth round of talks.

Syria's chief negotiator has blamed the West, Saudi Arabia and the UN for the failure of the latest round of negotiations to end the country's civil war.

Bashar al-Jaafari said the Syrian opposition - supported by Saudi Arabia - was setting a pre-condition of the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of discussions.

As long as they maintained this, there will be "no direct talks" between the Assad government and the opposition, he said.

He also criticised Staffan de Mistura, UN special envoy for Syria, for comments made to Swiss television on Wednesday calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to "have the courage" to convince his Syrian counterpart to hold new elections.

"His statement undermined his mandate as a facilitator of the talks, which will affect the entire Geneva process," Jaafari said.

He said Mistura had made an "error" in the interview and his mandate as mediator would be reviewed.

"Nobody can exert pressure on us," he said.

Russian involvement

The Syrian civil war has raged since March 2011 after the Assad government used deadly force to stop protests against his rule.

The nearly seven-year war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more.

The stalemated fighting turned in Assad's favour in late 2015 after Russia deployed air power and logistical support for its Syrian ally.

Putin announced a limited withdrawal from Syria during a surprise visit to a Russian airbase in Latakia on Wednesday.

The Syrian delegation has also accepted an invitation to talks in the southern Russian resort town of Sochi, expected to be held in February.

Some observers held out hope that Syrian government representatives would meet the opposition face-to-face in Sochi - instead of back-and-forth proposals through the UN mediator.

However, Jaafari ruled that out on Thursday.

"We are politicians; we don't work in science fiction," he said.


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