Main opposition group to attend Syria peace talks in Geneva
January 30 2016 12:48 AM
UN mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura delivering a statement after the opening of the Syrian peace talks at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva yesterday.


UN-sponsored negotiations on the Syrian conflict began in Geneva yesterday with only the government delegation taking part, but the main opposition group announced later that it had finally agreed to send a team to the talks.
The opposition’s absence at the scheduled start had cast doubt over the potential of the talks to make progress toward ending the five-year war that has claimed a quarter of a million lives.
The decision by the Higher Negotiations Committee (HNC) representing different factions fighting President Bashar al-Assad came after four days of internal talks held in Saudi Arabia.
The opposition team would come after it received support from key international powers, including the US, that it would be able to discuss humanitarian concerns, including an end to airstrikes and sieges by government troops, a statement said.
Real negotiations, however, would still depend on implementing these demands, the opposition noted, saying it was “testing the seriousness” of the talks.
Syrian government representative Bashar al-Jaafari met with special envoy Staffan de Mistura at the UN offices in Geneva for the first session of the talks.
De Mistura said he had received the opposition demands and believes they could best discuss the humanitarian concerns in Geneva.
Samir al-Nashar, a member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, told DPA there was “tremendous pressure” from some Western powers on the opposition to go to Geneva.
World powers hope that the Geneva negotiations will initiate a political process to resolve the Syrian conflict, which started as peaceful anti-government protests in 2011.
It has since spiralled into a multi-sided civil war that has claimed more than 250,000 lives and driven more than 11mn people from their homes, according to UN estimates.
The Islamic State terrorist militia has taken advantage of Syria’s strife and has seized large areas of the country.

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