Syria opposition threatens to walk out of Geneva talks

Syria opposition threatens to walk out of Geneva talks


Syria’s main opposition bloc has threatened to pull out of United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Geneva if what it called the “crimes” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government persisted.Representatives of the Saudi Arabia-based group, known as the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), landed in the Swiss capital late on Saturday, a day after a delegation representing the Assad regime arrived and held preliminary talks with the UN’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura.Speaking to Al Jazeera in Geneva late on Saturday, HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet said: “We want the peace talks to work, but there is no seriousness on the part of the regime.”Meslet said that the HNC would discuss with de Mistura on Sunday its conditions for joining the negotiations, which include the government agreeing to lift sieges on opposition-held areas and stop shelling them and agreeing to release prisoners.”The priority is to lift the suffering of the Syrian people,” he said. “If we see an implementation of these demands, including allowing trucks of aid into besieged areas, we will consider this as a sign of good will.”

HNC coordinator Riad Hijab, who did not travel to Geneva, said in an Arabic statement posted online that “if the regime insists on continuing to commit these crimes, then the HNC delegation’s presence in Geneva will not be justified.” “The delegation will inform de Mistura of its intentions to withdraw its negotiating team if the UN and world powers are unable to stop these violations,” Hijab wrote.Monzer Makhous, a member of the Syrian opposition delegation, said: “We are here to test the intentions of the regime … We do not have assurances, we have promises”.The proposed intra-Syrian talks are part of a peace plan set out in November by external powers embroiled in the five-year-old conflict, some on different sides.The process envisions elections within 18 months but leaves unresolved the future of Assad, whose government has been making gains on the ground since Russia began supporting it with air strikes since last September.Another thorny issue is which rebel groups will be involved in the talks, though all sides agree on the exclusion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the al-Nusra Front, which is seen as allied with al-Qaeda.


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