Key Players No-Shows as Syria Talks Re-Open
Political talks between the Syrian government and opposition are set to formally resume Wednesday, although key players will be absent.
U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura and his team “stand ready” to receive participants in Geneva, said the envoy’s spokeswoman Jessy Chahine.
However, she added that some participants will not be arriving until March 13 or 14. The U.N. said logistical arrangements have contributed to delays.
In a statement to VOA, the main Syrian opposition group said it would be a no-show for the start of talks.
“HNC [High Negotiations Committee] is discussing whether to attend the talks this week,” said a spokesperson for the group. The spokesperson added that no HNC representatives will be in Geneva Wednesday.
The Syrian government also indicated that it will not join until later, an indication that the proximity talks may not be fully under way March 14.
Staggered Arrivals May Not Hamper Talks
The State Department said it is not overly concerned about the staggered resumption of talks, a situation that is similar to what occurred when talks were launched in February.
“It certainly is not disconcerting to us,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby. “What matters is that they do resume and we do get some dialogue going.”
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford also said the exact resumption date is not a big issue, but he added the Syrian opposition could be swayed to pull back from talks if a current cease-fire erodes.
“I would be more concerned about whether the cessation of hostilities holds,” said Ford, an analyst at the Middle East Institute.
He said another concern is whether the Syrian government will approve allowing more humanitarian convoys to enter besieged areas.
UN to Focus on Aid, Cease-fire
A U.N. spokesman said that on Wednesday de Mistura will focus on discussing humanitarian and cease-fire issues with representatives.
The U.N.-facilitated proximity talks got off to a rocky start in early February before bogging down, partly due to opposition complaints of Syrian and Russian airstrikes that appeared to target Syrian rebels instead of Islamic State militants and other terrorists.
Later in the month, the 17-nation International Syria Support Group crafted a plan for a partial cessation of hostilities that took effect February 27.
Although the Syrian regime and the opposition have both reported violations, the overall level of fighting has diminished as a result of the truce, which does not include terrorist groups.
The U.N.-hosted talks between the government and the opposition are designed for the two sides to reach an agreement on a political transition in Syria, a move that could help end that country’s five-year civil war that has resulted in 250,000 deaths and left millions of civilians displaced.
Source: Voice of Americahttps://syrianewsgazette.com/key-players-no-shows-as-syria-talks-re-open/General