Syrian Opposition Convenes Ahead of New Round of Geneva Talks

Following the failure of Astana 3 negotiations, attention is shifted towards the upcoming round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, which will be held on March 23.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura condemned deadly suicide bomb attacks in Damascus on Wednesday, saying they aimed to derail peace talks as the country marked the sixth anniversary of the uprising.

“These attacks have claimed the lives of innocent civilians. They are also plainly designed to spoil attempts to sustain political talks,” de Mistura said in a statement.

Syrian state media reported that two suicide bomb attacks killed at least 31 people and wounded dozens more in the capital.

De Mistura called for “full respect of the ceasefire, which is being challenged by violations on the ground.”

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) would increase its meeting in the next few days in preparation for the upcoming talks in Geneva.

HNC’s political committee concluded Thursday a meeting on Geneva, stressing afterwards its commitment to adopting a hierarchic agenda, which would begin with the political transition, the constitution, followed by the elections.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, HNC official Hisham Mroueh said that Paragraph 16 of UN Security Council Resolution 2118 stipulates the achievement of an agreed political transition as the basis for discussing other issues, such as the constitution, elections and terrorism.

Mroueh said the failure of Astana talks would reflect negatively on the upcoming UN-led negotiations.

Peace talks in the Kazakh capital concluded on Wednesday without any substantive negotiations taking place, after the opposition decided to boycott the meeting that took place as the deadly double suicide bombing rocked the city of Damascus.

HNC member Fouad Aliko said that the opposition would not oppose adding the issue of fighting terrorism to the agenda – an issue that the government delegation has repeatedly called for.

Aliko said he believed that the chances of Geneva talks’ success were very slim.

“We will go to discuss the political transition but no progress would be made, as the government will undoubtedly stick to its position,” he stated.

Image: Reuters/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

Article: Asharq al-Awsat