Syrian opposition urges Russia to rescue UN peace talks

Orient Net - The Guardian 2017-12-12 11:45:00

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Russia has been urged by the Syrian opposition to salvage the UN’s peace talks in Geneva this week by persuading the Syrian government delegation finally to begin direct face-to-face discussions. 

Basma Kodami, a leading member of the Syrian opposition negotiating team, urged the Russians to show they wanted to capitalize on the end of military operations in Syria by building a lasting peace.

The opposition was not seeking Assad’s removal from office as a precondition for talks, she said, but his departure remained its objective. She said she could not see how Assad could ever be regarded as a legitimate candidate in fresh presidential elections overseen by the UN.

She said the focus of the talks this week should be a new constitution and arrangements for a presidential election, not Assad’s future.

Kodami said she believed Russia was putting pressure on regime delegation to negotiate seriously at Geneva in what is the eighth round of painfully slow talks.

On Monday the Assad delegation returned to Geneva for a meeting with the UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura. It had left the city prematurely last week, claiming there was no point talking to an opposition that demanded Assad’s withdrawal, a stance that prompted De Mistura to warn he would judge this week whether any party was seeking to sabotage the process.