Syrian opposition to attend peace talks in Geneva

Syrian opposition ends boycott and agrees to attend UN-brokered peace talks currently ongoing in Geneva

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

An overview of the room where UN mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura and the Syrian delegation led by Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al Jaafari opened the Syrian peace talks at the UN European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

Updated Jan 30, 2016

Syria's opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has agreed to attend peace talks which began on Friday in Geneva, but they will not negotiate with the Syrian regime representatives, head of HNC Asaad al Zoubi said. 

"They are coming for discussions with Mr. de Mistura, with the UN not for a direct engagement or negotiations to start the political negotiating process with the regime," said independent activist, Farrah el Atassi on behalf of the HNC. 

The Geneva talks, aimed at ending the five-year-long civil war in Syria, has been delayed for four days because of the refusal of the opposition to attend. 

The Syrian opposition said they demand a goodwill step in the ending of air strikes and blockades against civilians and that they would leave the process if these measures were not implemented. 

The HNC decision to travel to Geneva came after a phone call with the US Secretary General John Kerry and after receiving an answer from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to a letter sent to him by the committee. 

"Guarantees came that (United Nations) Resolution 2254 would be implemented in full ... so we will go to Geneva to discuss humanitarian issues," spokesman of the HNC Salim al Muslat told.

"We have agreed on a certain time period, which I cannot disclose now," al Muslat said. "Perhaps the coming days will show a serious approach to this issue. If there is then we will continue. If we don't see a serious approach then there will be a different decision."

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Friday that he hopes the meeting with the Syrian opposition would be held on Sunday. 

"I have good reasons to believe that they are actually considering this very seriously, and therefore to be in a position on, probably, Sunday, to actually start the discussion with them, in order to be able to proceed with the intra-Syrian talks," said de Mistura. 

The Syrian regime delegation arrived on Friday to Geneva and met with de Mistura. 

​HNC refused to attend negotiations

The head of the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) Riad Hijab on Thursday had said that his group would not attend the UN-brokered peace talks until an agreement was reached on aid entering besieged towns.

"The opposition is prepared to go to Geneva if these measures are taken," Hijab told Al Arabiya on the eve of the planned talks.

The failure to initiate peace talks on time is a reflection of the complications evident in the region.

Talks between the Syrian regime and opposition forces had been due to start in Geneva on Monday, but were delayed partly because of a dispute over who will be part of the opposition delegation.

The Syrian regime has been recently taking control of territory from the rebels with military help from Iran and Russia, while Russia had been frequently condemned by Turkey and the US for killing civilians in its air strikes.

Turkey had opposed the PYD’s participation in the talks because it considers the PYD to be the PKK's Syrian extension, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU, and the US.

The start of the peace talks will consist of the UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura meeting with the Syrian regime delegation headed by the permanent representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic to the UN, Bashar Jaafari.

Mistura will then continue to meet with other participants and representatives of the Syrian civil society.

In a press conference on Monday, he announced that, “These will be proximity talks, meaning that the parties will be meeting with him separately.”

TRTWorld, Reuters