Syria’s opposition group to join Geneva peace talks


After days of speculation on whether the Syrian opposition group would attend the peace talks in Geneva, the opposition has now finally agreed to travel to Geneva. The United Nations-led peace talks began on January 29 to end the country’s five-year-old war.

Inviting the Syrian government and an opposition umbrella group to Geneva for “proximity talks”, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has agreed to meet them separately.

The opposition group, however, said it wanted to discuss humanitarian issues before engaging in political negotiations. The opponents of President Bashar al-Assad said they were facing a Russian-backed military onslaught. According to the opposition group, hundreds of civilians fled as the Syrian army and allied militia tried to capture a suburb of Damascus and hoped to kill the rebel groups defending it.

The opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) had refused to attend the meet till the last minute. However, the international community and all the stakeholders involved had been asking the opposition to attend the meet to find a way forward. The group, which includes both armed and political opponents of Assad regime, had insisted it wanted an end to air strikes and sieges of towns. The group had also been demanding the release of detainees before talks could start.

“The HNC will go to Geneva tomorrow to discuss these humanitarian issues which will pave the way into the political process of negotiations,” spokesman Salim al-Muslat said.

As the Islamic state continues to create mayhem in Syria, the US and its allies have intensified the air strikes against the group. Russia, which joined in the fight against IS in 2015, had come under severe criticism for its approach from the West. Russia’s intervention has stabilised the Assad regime and provided the required momentum to fight against the IS. The rebel groups claim that the ongoing fight is of more concern to them than the fate of the negotiations.

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