Stage is set for Syria peace talks as opposition arrives in Geneva

Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:26am GMT

By Stephanie Nebehay and Suleiman Al-Khalidi

GENEVA/AMMAN (Reuters) - A delegation from Syria's main opposition group arrived in Geneva on Saturday to join U.N.-mediated peace talks, demanding President Bashar al-Assad's government be made to comply with a U.N. resolution on humanitarian aid and human rights.

“We are keen to make this negotiation a success," opposition spokesman Salim al-Muslat told reporters as the delegation arrived from Riyadh, ending weeks of uncertainty about whether they would come and the talks would happen.

The 17-strong team from the Saudi-backed Higher Negotiation Committee (HNC), including political and militant opponents of Assad in the country's 5-year-old civil war, is expected to have a first meeting with the U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura on Sunday, setting up the first peace talks in two years.

Muslat said the HNC insisted on implementation of a U.N. resolution demanding all sides allow aid access, release detainees, end sieges and stop targeting civilian areas.

That was not a precondition for talks, he said, but it was the duty of the Security Council members who agreed the resolution last month, including Syria's chief ally Russia, which is supporting Assad's forces with a bombing campaign.

Russian air strikes on Syria have killed nearly 1,400 civilians since Moscow started its aerial campaign nearly four months ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said on Saturday.

"We are going to Geneva to put to the test the seriousness of the international community in its promises to the Syrian people and to also test the seriousness of the regime in implementing its humanitarian obligations," HNC spokesman Riyad Naasan Agha said.

"We want to show the world our seriousness in moving towards negotiations to find a political solution," he told Reuters.   Continued...

U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura delivers a statement after the opening of the Syrian peace talks at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.