Geneva – Peace talks intended to end Syria’s civil war started this Friday. The talks began with a meeting at the U.N. offices in Geneva between U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura and a Syrian government delegation headed by the Syrian ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Jaafari. However, the main opposition group was not there.
The opposition group, called the higher negotiating committee, first boycotted the session saying it wouldn’t participate without an end to airstrikes on civilians by Russian and Syrian government forces, a lifting of blockades of towns in rebel-held areas, and the release of detainees.
Later on the group agreed to travel to Geneva to open peace talks to end the country’s five-year-old war after many Western powers and Saudi Arabia, a major backer of the group, pushed them to attend. However, the group pointed out that it wanted to discuss humanitarian issues before engaging in political negotiations. The session went on without their presence.
After the meeting, de Mistura told reporters he hoped to meet with representatives of the opposition group on Sunday.
“I have good reasons to believe that they are actually considering this very seriously and therefore to be in a position on probably Sunday, to actually start the discussion with them, in order to be able to proceed with the intra-Syrian talks,” de Mistura said.
Farah Atassi, an HNC member told reporters that representatives of the group would talk to U.N. officials on Sunday, but that they would only dialogue about their demands, they would not participate in negotiation.
The civil war has killed 250,000 people and has forced millions to flee the country. The conflict has also seen the birth of the Islamic State militant group and generated a massive wave of refugees to Western Europe.
The battles in Syria have intensified since September, when Russia began airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad, countering the efforts of opposition groups supported by the United States, some members of the European Union, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Source: The New York Times