Syrian HNC Hopes For Results of Geneva Talks

Posted March 03, 2017

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura believes Thursday will be an important day in the Geneva intra-Syrian talks as the opposition's High Negotiations Committee (HNC) is willing to go deeply into the agenda and the government delegation's willingness is to be clarified.

The delegation and de Mistura held a meeting on Saturday, with Bashar al-Jaafari stressing that the talks focused on only one point, which is putting the issue of combating terrorism as a priority.

"We notice now that the political transition subject has become the main subject on the table", opposition negotiator Nasr al-Hariri told reporters.

"We heard from Mr de Mistura that - due to Russian pressure, and this is a sign that can be initially encouraging - there is acceptance to tackle the issues enshrined in (U.N. Security Council resolution) 2254, and most importantly to us political transition", Hariri said. But until the Trump administration articulates its policy on Syria, participants and diplomats said, there is little reason for either the Syrian government or the opposition to make substantial concessions.

Al-Hariri added: "The Syrian people are paying the price because of the Obama administration's catastrophic mistakes". Opposition sources had said they expected to meet the Middle East director at Russia's foreign ministry, Sergei Vershinin, later on Tuesday.

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The talks are governed by U.N. Security Council resolution 2254, which sets out a political transition process including plans for a new constitution, U.N. -supervised elections and transparent and accountable governance. While new President Donald Trump has called for an alliance with Russian Federation to fight the jihadists, he's also branded Iran as the "number one terrorist" threat even as the Kremlin insists on including Iranian-backed and Assad forces in the anti-terrorist campaign in Syria.

On March 1, the HNC discussed at a meeting with de Mistura the issues of the Syrian peace process, focusing on political transition in the first place, RIA Novosti reported.

Russia, Turkey and Iran held two rounds of meetings with the warring sides in Astana over the past month in an effort to firm up a failing ceasefire, which has steadily fallen apart in recent weeks. "We want them to work with us on stopping terrorism in Syria".

Hariri accused the government of using increased violence on the ground to foil talks in Geneva.

It announced ahead of the talks that it would not walk out - as it did last time - and it has agreed to discuss all the items on the agenda set by Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy mediating the discussions.

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"The U.S.is not a direct participant in the UN-led talks", a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission in Geneva said.

Gatilov, who arrived Monday in the Swiss city and met with Syrian regime negotiator Bashar Jaafari, adopted the same position of the regime, which insists on placing the issue of fighting terrorism on the agenda of the Geneva talks.

Until Tuesday, opposition forces were still betting on the clear USA absence in Geneva and on a "moderate" Russian Federation, which pretended exerting pressure on the Syrian regime delegation to finally accept discussing the issue of power transfer in Syria. Government troops are confronted by militants of different armed rebel groups.

"I think it's about time for Russians to understand that if they keep avoiding working with HNC, in a few years it might happen they will be sitting in front of ISIS leaders and trying to find solutions for Syria", Atassi said, using an acronym to refer to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

"You have to wonder if it's not just another ruse to win time", said one diplomat.

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