Syrian opposition to send delegates to Geneva talks.
Syria’s largest mainstream opposition group said on Friday it would attend UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva, a senior delegate has announced after four days of discussions in Riyadh.
The delegate said the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) will send “about 30, 35 people” in all to the Geneva talks, which started on Friday with only Syriam government representatives in attendance.
On Wednesday night, Riad Hijab, head of the HNC, had indicated that the delegation would not attend the talks until an agreement was reached to allow aid to enter Syrian towns where at least a milion people are currently undersiege.
Resolution 2254, a UN resolution adopted by the UN Security Council in 2014, gives international aid agencies the right to access besieged areas in Syria without permission of the Syrian government, and the delegation has been asking for the international community to implement the resolution before any talks begin.
Late on Thursday, Asaad al-Zoabi, head of the HNC delegation, told Sky News Arabia that the opposition had received the guarantees it sought for an end to bombardment of civilians, and aid access to besieged areas.
Those guarantees came from the US and Saudi Arabia, Zoabi said, adding the delegation would arrive Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
For now, no face-to-face talks between the opposition and the regime are expected. Instead “proximity talks” are envisioned whereby go-betweens shuttle between the participants.
They are part of a plan for Syria, set out in November in Vienna, by external powers including the US, Russia, Gulf states, Iran and Turkey.
The “Vienna Process” calls for elections within 18 months but leaves open the question of President Bashar al-Assad’s future role.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday said his country “welcomes the important decision” by the HNC.
“The United States also reiterates that UN Security Council Resolution 2254 must be fully implemented by all parties to the talks, including with regard to the urgent need for humanitarian access for besieged areas of Syria,” he added.
The Saudi foreign ministry said it welcomed the committee’s decision “to take part in the Geneva negotiations to implement UN Security Council resolution 2254”.
In a post on Twitter, however, the HNC said it would not be taking part in actual peace negotiations in the Swiss city.
The UN’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura struck a hopeful note at the conclusion of Friday’s session in Geneva, saying he believed the opposition would take part in talks to bring peace in Syria.
Source: Middle Eeast Eye