Syrian government seeks talks with unified national opposition: Chief negotiator

March 4, 2017 10:30 pm

The photo shows ’s envoy to the UN Bashar al-Ja’afari after Geneva peace talks with the Syrian opposition on March 3, 2017 (Photo by AFP).

The main condition for the Syrian government to continue peace talks is to negotiate with a “unified” national opposition which is not linked to any foreign countries, says Syria’s ambassador to the UN and chief negotiator.
In his first remarks following the latest round of UN-led Syria peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva, Bashar al-Ja’afari told reporters on Saturday that Damascus sought a unified Syrian opposition in the negotiations, “not a Saudi partner nor a Qatari, Turkish or French partner.”
He noted that such an opposition should not seek assistance from Israel and “does not work according to Qatari, Saudi, Jordanian, Israeli intelligence agendas.”
The High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which serves as an umbrella group for militants and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the peace talks, was the main Syrian opposition at the negotiations along with two smaller groups that attended the negotiations under the auspices of Russia.
Referring to the results of the talks which ended on Friday, Ja’afari said, “Nothing has been adopted so far, there is nothing final at all except for the agreement on an agenda. This is the only final thing that we achieved in this round.”
The Syrian chief negotiator said Damascus was currently examining whether to return for the next round of Geneva talks later in March.

Russia’s Ambassador to UN Alexei Borodavkin (File photo)

Meanwhile, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Alexei Borodavkin hailed the “certain progress” achieved at the Geneva talks, saying the negotiations proved “ill-wishing” predictions wrong.
He said that the Geneva talks had outlined a way forward, which focused on four issues, including the fight on terrorism.   
UN mediator Staffan de Mistura says he plans to continue separate negotiations with the Damascus government and the opposition on key issues after his next week meeting with the UN Security Council.
Speaking at a press conference after the Geneva talks on Friday, De Mistura said the strategy for battling terrorism would be at the core of another round of peace negotiations between representatives of the Syrian government and those of the armed opposition groups later this month.
This round of the UN-brokered negotiations — the first since last April — came shortly after the conclusion of the second round of the Syria peace talks, facilitated by Russia, Turkey and Iran, in the Kazakh capital Astana on February 15 and 16. The negotiations, which were held in a closed-door setting, sought to pave the way for the latest Geneva talks.
For the past six years, Syria has been fighting terrorism. De Mistura estimated in August last year that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then. The world body stopped its official casualty count in the war-torn country, citing its inability to verify the figures it received from various sources. 
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