Syrian opposition ready for direct talks with regime

Syria’s opposition ‘not against’ direct talks with Assad regime, High Negotiations Committee (HNC) spokesman Salim al-Muslat says

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), gestures before a meeting with UN mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura during peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 15, 2016.

Syria's opposition are "not against" direct talks with the representatives of Bashar al Assad's regime, Salim al-Muslat, a spokesman for the main Syrian opposition alliance in Geneva said on Tuesday.

Negotiators for the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) met UN mediator Staffan de Mistura for the first time in what is expected to be a 10-day round of indirect "proximity talks" between the warring sides.

"We are not against direct talks, but you know de Mistura decided to start with indirect talks," Muslat said.

He expected de Mistura to switch to a format of direct talks at a later stage, but said that would be up to de Mistura.

"As long as we have a solution, as long as we have relief for our people we don't mind what form the negotiation is," Muslat said.

The talks are the first to be held in more than two years and come amid an unprecedented cessation in hostilities sponsored by the Washington and Moscow, which has been accepted by the Assad regime and most mainstream opposition groups.

De Mistura has said the "proximity" format gives him a lot of flexibility and also allows him to consult others on the sidelines.

After meeting with the opposition, De Mistura said he will analyse the opposition document and compare with the regime’s paper submitted on Monday to produce a common UN position.

De Mistura met a Syrian women's group on Sunday, the regime delegation on Monday and the HNC delegation on Tuesday. On Wednesday he will meet a group of about eight other Syrian activists including Qadri Jamil, a representative of the Syrian People's Front opposition group.

But PYD, the Syrian affiliate of the southeastern Turkey-based PKK terrorist group, are still "banned" from the UN talks, but they may be involved at a later stage, Jamil told Reuters.

The first round of talks will end around March 24, followed by a break of 7-10 days, then a second round of at least two weeks before another recess and a third round.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the five-year-old civil war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced 11 million Syrians.

TRTWorld and agencies