International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi apologized to the Syrian people on Saturday for the lack of progress at peace talks in Geneva, after their second round ended with little more than an agreement to meet again.
Brahimi ended direct talks between the Syrian government and opposition earlier in the day, after less than half an hour of trying to find a solution to their impasse. The latest round of talks aimed at finding some way out of Syria's civil war had gone into a sixth consecutive day at U.N. European headquarters in Geneva, while violence kept escalating for Syrians back home.
Brahimi, an Algerian-born diplomat, said the recent agreement to evacuate people from the besieged city of Homs had raised hopes that had not been satisfied at the Geneva talks, involving opposition groups and representatives of President Bashar al-Assad.
"I am very, very sorry and I apologize to the Syrian people that their hopes, which were very, very high here, that something will happen here," Brahimi told journalists after the talks.
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also stressed how meager the results had been, saying an evacuation from Homs did not herald any wider improvement in humanitarian access to Syria's civil war zones, where the United Nations says up to 3 million people in need are beyond its reach.
Brahimi said at a news conference Saturday that he had proposed an agenda for another round of talks that would focus first on ending the violence, and then cover how to create a transitional governing body.
"Unfortunately, the government has refused," he told reporters, saying he would now seek consultations with the United States and Russia, the main sponsors of the peace conference, and the United Nations to see how to proceed.
"Everybody needs to go back to their base and we will contact each other to determine the coming date. It is not clear," Brahimi said.
Despite the hostility between the two delegations that has produced little more than public displays of acrimony and sparring before the TV cameras, the opposition said it continued to hold out hope for a political solution.
Anas al-Abdeh, a member of the opposition negotiating team, said his side accepted the agenda –but the government's unwillingness to go along with it has put the prospects for a third session of talks within the "Geneva 2" negotiating round in doubt. The first peace conference, dubbed "Geneva 1," produced a roadmap for peace in June 2012 that was not followed.
Al-Abdeh called the stalemate a result of the government's "continuous effort to not talk and not to discuss the issue of the transitional governing body."
The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main opposition faction, submitted a plan Wednesday outlining its vision of a transitional government and its suggestions for how to drive foreign fighters out of the country.
On Friday, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the U.S. of using peace talks to push for a "regime-change" in Syria, saying the issue of a transitional government had dominated the dialogue in Switzerland.
Al Jazeera and wire services