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Syrian peace talks end in stalemate after 'very slow' progress

Martial Trezzini / EPA

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem at a press conference after peace talks ended with "very little progress.

A contentious round of Syrian peace talks ended Friday with little or no progress towards ending the three-year civil war that has ravaged the country and left more than 100,000 dead.  

Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moualem blamed the “immaturity” of the opposition and “threats to implode” the talks.

Along with other delegates representing the country’s president, Bashar Assad, he was unable to say whether the government would return for another planned round of discussions in 10 days’ time.

U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he thought there was more common ground than the sides recognized, although neither side budged an inch from their main positions.

While the opposition wants the talks to focus on a transitional administration it says will remove Assad from power, the government wants to talk about fighting "terrorism,” a generic term that it uses for all of its foes.

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"Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged in an acceptable manner," Brahimi said, adding that Assad’s delegates had told him they needed to check with Damascus about attending the next round of talks.

The sides also failed to achieve more modest aims, like an agreement to allow aid convoys into Homs, Syria's third largest city, where thousands of civilians are trapped with no access to food or medicine. 

"Homs was extensively discussed, although unfortunately there has been no breakthrough yet," Brahimi said. 

Earlier at a news conference in Berlin, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Syria had no excuse for delays in ridding itself of chemical weapons, and urged it to move “very rapidly” to allow them to be shipped out of the country. 

"Every indication we have is that there is no legitimate reason why that (removal) is not happening now," he said. "We want the Syrian regime to live up to its obligations and it is critical that very rapidly all those chemical weapons are moved from their 12 or so sites to the one site in the port (of Latakia) to be prepared for shipment out of Syria." 

However one of Assad’s main backers Russia, rejected Kerry’s claims and said the June 30 deadline for the elimination of the weapons remained viable. 

Reuters contributed to this report.