Syrian opposition says regime using pretexts to avoid talks

Head of Syrian opposition Assad al Zoubi says regime is using pretexts to avoid talks of transitional government, violated cessation deal 2,000 times including dropping 420 barrel bombs in March alone

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Members of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) George Sabra (L-R), Asaad Al Zoubi and Mohamed Alloush of the Jaysh al Islam attend a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, April 13, 2016.

Head of High Negotiations Committee Delegation (HNC) Assad al Zoubi said on Wednesday that forming a transitional government without Syria’s Bashar al Assad was the opposition's main priority for the second round of peace talks in Geneva.

"We want to tell the world that we, the representatives of the Syrian people, are searching and working for a political solution,” while the regime “which has broken all the UN decisions, is using false pretexts in order to not be here now in these negotiations,” Zoubi said.

He also added that the regime is avoiding to find or adhere to a political solution.

Zoubi stressed that the only way of moving on was to form a transitional government that excludes Assad.

"Bashar al Assad is the disease that has struck Syria, and this disease will not be cured except with the departure of Bashar Al Assad and the emblems of his regime," said Zoubi.

Zoubi also cited more than 2,000 cessation deal violations and 420 barrel bombs dropped in March by the regime forces.

United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who said that he wanted to see a renewed pledge to continue the cessation of hostilities, pointed out these violations.

"If incidents on this cessation of hostilities are too often repeated, they could at least deteriorate the spirit and the confidence in it. And that is why perhaps it would be good timing for a reaffirmation by those who have been supporting and promoting the cessation of hostilities in their faith and determination in protecting it. At the beginning of the second round of talks that would be a significant help," de Mistura said.

The special envoy also added that senior officials in Moscow, Damascus, Tehran and Amman, all had indicated support and interest in a discussion aiming at a political transition in Syria.

"From Moscow to Tehran, even Damascus agreed on the fact that this is the agenda. I believe that perhaps if you look at it carefully, in the Novosti interview with President Assad, I believe that there was a reference to political transition more than once. So i don't see anyone doubting that that is the agenda. Now of course how do you go deeper into it is going to be the issue, but that is why we have these kind of talks," said the envoy.

The talks, aimed at ending the six-year civil war, resumed on Wednesday. The first round made little progress with no sign of compromise over the thorniest issue, the future of Assad.

Meanwhile Syrians who live in regime-held areas voted on Wednesday for a new 250-member parliament.

The elections in Syria have been widely criticised by Western governments because the six-year-old war has driven millions of Syrians from their homes, leaving them unable to vote.

US State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said on Monday that "We would view those elections as not legitimate in the sense that they don’t represent the will of the Syrian people. There is a – right now talks in Geneva on a way to chart a political transition that we believe is the ultimate solution for the conflict in Syria. So to hold parliamentary elections now given the current circumstances, given the current conditions in the country, we believe is at best premature and not representative of the Syrian people."

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the elections in Syria are a "sham," while his German counterpart said that country "will not accept the results."

On the other hand, Moscow, one of the main supporter of the regime, declared a support for Syrian elections and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the elections are needed to prevent a "vacuum of power."

Besides Moscow, Tehran also expressed its support to the elections.

TRTWorld and agencies