Syrian opposition says Assad must stop bombings before talks

Syrian moderate opposition demands Assad regime stop bombing civilians, release detainees and lift blockades in rebel held areas

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A man waves a Syrian opposition flag as others cheer upon the arrival of a UN and Red Cross convoy escorting more than 125 fighters from the besieged rebel-held Syrian town of Zabadani.

Syrian moderate opposition leaders have told a United Nations envoy that the Syrian regime must stop dropping barrel bombs on civilian areas, release prisoners and lift blockades imposed on rebel-held areas before negotiations scheduled to be held this month.

The UN announced in December that talks would be held on January 25 in Geneva between the warring sides in Syria aimed at ending almost five years of civil war.

The demands were delivered to Staffan de Mistura, the leader of special envoy for Syria crisis by Syrian opposition politicians and rebel leaders during their meeting in Riyadh.

"The meeting went well. The opposition's position is unified," an opposition body said anonymously, Reuters reported.

The UN Security Council approved a resolution on December 18 endorsing an international roadmap for a Syrian peace process.

The opposition demanded "the implementation of paragraphs 12, 13 and 14" of the Security Council resolution. "They are the guarantees [for the negotiations]," the official said.

The paragraphs mandate greater access for humanitarian agencies, an end to any attacks against civilians and civilian objects, and aim to allow for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their home areas in Syria.

The opposition body was formed last month as part of a Saudi-backed effort to get the opposition ready for talks.

Riyadh is a major backer of the opposition to the Iranian-backed Bashar al Assad regime in the Syrian Civil War, which had caused the deaths of more than 250,000 people and forced millions flee to other countries.

Saudis will continue to support negotiations in Syria

Riyadh signalled on Tuesday that disrupted relations with Tehran will not affect the negotiations on Syria planned to he held in Geneva this month.

Iranians protesting Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al Nimr stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran early on Sunday. 

In response, Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran and ordered the Iranian diplomatic mission in Riyadh to leave the country within 48 hours. 

Previously Saudi Arabia and Iran have attended negotiations and support opposing sides in the war.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said recent tensions with Iran will not affect negotiations, adding, "... the operations that the United Nations carries out alongside the international community to achieve a political solution in Geneva soon."

Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Sudan have demonstrated their solidarity with Saudi Arabia and downgraded ties with Iran.

Iran has in return criticised Saudi Arabia, accusing it of downplaying the death toll from a deadly stampede in Mecca which cost the lives of hundreds of Hajj pilgrims in September.

TRTWorld and agencies