Syria UN-mediated peace talks underway in Geneva

Nick Mcbride
May 16, 2017

Since it broke out in March 2011, Syria's conflict has killed more than 320,000 people, displaced millions and ravaged the country's economy and infrastructure.

The UN's special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura is to oversee the discussions, which are to involve a negotiation team from the Damascus government headed by Syria's permanent ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, and a rebel delegation fronted by Naser al-Hariri, Efe news reported.

Assad has however given more credit to a separate diplomatic track in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, which is being led by his allies Russian Federation and Iran along with opposition supporter Turkey.

The opposition rejects the regime approach.

"Its composition and work format will be the main topic for the talks in Geneva", a source said.

Daesh is not party to the Syria peace process and, as it controls large parts of Syria, this poses a challenge for any breakthrough in Geneva.

Syrian regime delegation chief Bashar al-Jaafari was holding an initial meeting with Mr De Mistura at the United Nations on Tuesday.

Challenged on the goal of the talks given the attitude of Assad, De Mistura claimed the Syrian president would not be sending an 18-strong delegation to Geneva led by his highly experienced ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, unless it was interested in the political process.

"That's why we have come here to Geneva committed to negotiate a political solution and that's why Assad is frightened of this process".

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"We're working in tandem", he told reporters on Monday (May 15).

While Moscow and Tehran have offered consistent backing to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Ankara has sided with groups allied to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, especially in the north of Syria, where Turkish troops recently bolstered an operation to recover ground lost to the Islamic State terror organisation.

The head of the opposition delegation to the talks welcomed the U.S. statement, but complained it had come too late.

Rebel backer Turkey and government allies Russian Federation and Iran sponsored the first talks in Astana in late January to reinforce a faltering ceasefire.

Assad has brushed off the upcoming Geneva negotiations as "merely a meeting for the media".

"There is a reciprocal relationship between Astana meeting and Geneva meeting and enforcing the cease-fire is something fundamental and important for creating the suitable climates for serious talks and at the same time the cease-fire could never have continuity without political prospects and this is a very important issue", he noted. Not even one per million.

"As to Astana, the situation is different".

With Assad's negotiators and the HNC expected to be in the Swiss city until the weekend, de Mistura said he wanted to drill down on several issues in hopes of generating solid proposals.

Other reports by VgToday

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