Honduras talks hit stalemate
Zelaya, left, met Arias in San Jose and reiterated his demand to be reinstated immediately [AFP]
Talks aimed at ending a political crisis in Honduras have failed to reach a resolution, after the two individuals claiming the presidency of the country left the negotiations.
Delegates for Roberto Micheletti, the military-backed interim president, and Manuel Zelaya, the deposed elected president, failed to reach a breakthrough in talks mediated by Oscar Arias, Costa Rica's president.
Micheletti's team of advisers left the Costa Rican capital San Jose on Friday evening and headed back to Honduras, bringing an end to the negotiations for the time being.
The two sides have agreed to continue their talks "in the shortest period possible", Arias said.
Honduras, a Central American country of seven million people, has been hit by protests since June 28, when Zelaya was seized by the army and forcibly deported.
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The president of the United Nations General Assembly said a solution to the crisis was close despite the apparent failure of the Arias-brokered talks.
"I hear we may be very close to a solution for the restitution of President Zelaya," Miguel d'Escoto said on Friday.
"I feel confident that a solution will be arrived at very soon. By soon I mean very few days. A week is soon, but I believe sooner."
The UN General Assembly last week issued a resolution calling for Zelaya to be reinstated to the presidency in the wake of the coup in Honduras.
Micheletti and Arias held separate meetings with Arias on Thursday after they refused to see each other face-to-face.
But the interim leader flew back to Honduras late on Thursday, while Zelaya headed to the Dominican Republic on Friday in an attempt to win regional support for his reinstatement as president.
"We have made the first step," Zelaya said on Friday after a final meeting with Arias.
"President Arias heard my position and that of the union and political representatives with me, which is the immediate restoration of the elected president."
However, Arias said that the talks have failed to produce a clear negotiated settlement.
"I feel satisfied because a sincere, clear dialogue has been initiated, but still, the positions are very different and certainly these things ... take time, they require patience," he said.
"This could possibly take more time than imagined."
Talks to continue
Micheletti, following his return to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, said he was ready to return to talks "if necessary".
Second largest country in Central America
Population of 7.2 million
Second poorest country in the region
Economy forecast to grow less than two per cent this year
Relies on money from Hondurans in the US for more than 25 per cent of its gross domestic product
Former Spanish colony gained independence in 1821
"If I am invited by President Arias, I will return with great pleasure," he said.
The US has suspended military ties with Tegucigalpa in the wake of the crisis and has said that it could cut off about $200m in aid.
The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have also suspended credit to the country.
Gabriela Nunez, the finance minister in the interim government in Honduras, said on Friday that the suspension of Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank loans would cost the country $200m in 2009.
Zelaya's leftist allies in South America have also made life uncomfortable for Micheletti since the coup.
Venezuela has suspended its oil deliveries to Honduras, while Nicaragua denied Micheletti permission to fly through its airspace for the Costa Rica meeting.
Zelaya was removed from power as he was about to press ahead with a non-binding referendum on constitution change.
Congress and the courts had declared the move to hold the public vote illegal, accusing Zelaya of trying to change the charter to enable him to run for a second term in office.
I am very glad to see that talks are still taking place. Hopefully international support will end the coup before all the suspended aid begins to cause suffering to the poor.
I have recently started using Al Jazeera for all my news, since it seems to be the only news source which covers these events in depth.