Syria’s main opposition group ‘to join talks in Geneva’

Syria’s main opposition group ‘to join talks in Geneva’

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The main Syrian opposition body has agreed to attend talks which have begun in Geneva, sources told Al Jazeera.
UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Friday that he believed he would be able to meet the Higher Negotiating Committee (HNC) of the Syrian opposition on Sunday.Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Geneva, said de Mistura sounded optimistic about the participation of the HNC.
“He suggested he could be speaking to the opposition as early on Sunday. However, we still need to get the official confirmation,” Bays said.
“I’ve been following the news coming out of Riyadh very closely in the past weeks and found that every third person will tell you a completely different story,” he added.
Indirect talks aimed at resolving Syria’s five-year conflict started on Friday at the UN headquarters in Geneva, without the participation of the HNC.
The talks are the first since two rounds of negotiations collapsed in 2014. Syria’s conflict has killed more than 250,000 people, displaced millions and sent hundreds of thousands as refugees to Europe.
The first meeting was between the de Mistura and a government delegation headed by the country’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari.
A UN spokesman said that de Mistura would later meet with other delegates, including civil society representatives.
The main opposition delegation had initially said it would not participate in the talks without an end to the bombardment of civilians by Russian and government forces and a lifting of sieges in rebel-held areas.
The meetings are part of a process outlined in a UN resolution last month that envisages an 18-month timetable for a political transition in Syria, including the drafting of a new constitution and elections.
Disputes are ongoing over which opposition parties will attend, with the HNC coming under criticism for including the Army of Islam group, which controls wide areas near the Syrian capital, Damascus, and is considered a terrorist organisation by the Syrian government and Russia.
Earlier on Friday, UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi reflected the sense of chaos and confusion surrounding the beginning of peace negotiations when he told reporters at a briefing that “I don’t have a time, I don’t have the exact location, and I can’t tell you anything about the delegation.”
Source: Al Jazeera And AP

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