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Parties to Syria war ready for direct talks: UN

25 February 2017 10:09

 

The United Nations says it has seen signs that the Syrian government’s delegation and representatives of the armed opposition groups are ready to hold face-to-face negotiations for the first time in the fresh round of the Geneva peace talks.

Michael Contet, the acting chief of staff of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, made the remarks at a Friday press conference at the end of the second day of a new round of talks at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

He noted that de Mistura was “satisfied that in a short space of time the parties have shown their readiness to sit in one room and he has had the opportunity for some initial in-depth exchanges.”

Content added that the special envoy, however, believed that the negotiations would be a difficult and lengthy process that an “early public breakthrough should not be expected.”

During the previous rounds of talks held in Geneva, the two parties never negotiated directly and only communicated via de Mistura.

The UN-brokered intra-Syrian talks come shortly after the conclusion of the second round of the Syria peace negotiations, facilitated by Russia, Turkey and Iran, in the Kazakh capital of Astana on February 15 and 16. The negotiations, which were held in a closed-door setting, sought to pave the way for the negotiations in Geneva.

According to Contet, de Mistura had “very structured meetings” with both the government delegation, led by Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari, and Nasser al-Hariri, the head of Syria’s main opposition group, the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which serves as an umbrella group for militants and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Contet added that the special envoy also made “detailed proposals on how the talks could proceed in order to facilitate substantive discussions with a view towards genuine negotiations.”

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (L) attends a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 24, 2017, the second day of a new round of the Syria peace talks. 

On Thursday, de Mistura, who moderates the ongoing talks in Geneva, had announced that he would hold meetings with participants of the intra-Syrian talks throughout the day on Friday.

‘Positive ideas’

Hariri, for his part, told reports following a meeting with de Mistura that his team had positive talks with the special envoy.

“We heard positive ideas and suggestions from Mr de Mistura,” Hariri said, describing the UN official as “more enthusiastic than before in discussing a political transition in Syria.”

“So far there are no specific measures,” he further said, adding that they had only covered the “procedural” aspects of the ongoing talks.

The term “political transition” is interpreted by the foreign-backed opposition as the ouster of Assad or at least erosion of his powers.

Earlier this month, the HNC said that the Saudi-backed Ahrar al-Sham militant group and Jaysh al-Islam did not have any representatives in the opposition delegation, a development that was perceived as a sign that the armed opposition groups were trying to distance themselves from Riyadh’s warmongering policies in Syria.

For nearly six years, Syria has been fighting foreign-sponsored militancy. The UN envoy 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.

 

The United Nations says it has seen signs that the Syrian government’s delegation and representatives of the armed opposition groups are ready to hold face-to-face negotiations for the first time in the fresh round of the Geneva peace talks.

Michael Contet, the acting chief of staff of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, made the remarks at a Friday press conference at the end of the second day of a new round of talks at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

He noted that de Mistura was “satisfied that in a short space of time the parties have shown their readiness to sit in one room and he has had the opportunity for some initial in-depth exchanges.”

Content added that the special envoy, however, believed that the negotiations would be a difficult and lengthy process that an “early public breakthrough should not be expected.”

During the previous rounds of talks held in Geneva, the two parties never negotiated directly and only communicated via de Mistura.

The UN-brokered intra-Syrian talks come shortly after the conclusion of the second round of the Syria peace negotiations, facilitated by Russia, Turkey and Iran, in the Kazakh capital of Astana on February 15 and 16. The negotiations, which were held in a closed-door setting, sought to pave the way for the negotiations in Geneva.

According to Contet, de Mistura had “very structured meetings” with both the government delegation, led by Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari, and Nasser al-Hariri, the head of Syria’s main opposition group, the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which serves as an umbrella group for militants and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Contet added that the special envoy also made “detailed proposals on how the talks could proceed in order to facilitate substantive discussions with a view towards genuine negotiations.”

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (L) attends a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 24, 2017, the second day of a new round of the Syria peace talks. 

On Thursday, de Mistura, who moderates the ongoing talks in Geneva, had announced that he would hold meetings with participants of the intra-Syrian talks throughout the day on Friday.

‘Positive ideas’

Hariri, for his part, told reports following a meeting with de Mistura that his team had positive talks with the special envoy.

“We heard positive ideas and suggestions from Mr de Mistura,” Hariri said, describing the UN official as “more enthusiastic than before in discussing a political transition in Syria.”

“So far there are no specific measures,” he further said, adding that they had only covered the “procedural” aspects of the ongoing talks.

The term “political transition” is interpreted by the foreign-backed opposition as the ouster of Assad or at least erosion of his powers.

Earlier this month, the HNC said that the Saudi-backed Ahrar al-Sham militant group and Jaysh al-Islam did not have any representatives in the opposition delegation, a development that was perceived as a sign that the armed opposition groups were trying to distance themselves from Riyadh’s warmongering policies in Syria.

For nearly six years, Syria has been fighting foreign-sponsored militancy. The UN envoy 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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