Geneva : U.N. announces official beginning to Syria peace talks

Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar al Jaafari attends a news conference during the Geneva peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland January 31, 2016. (Reuters)

GENEVA – The U.N. special envoy for Syria has announced the official start of peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition leaders.

Staffan di Mistura made the comments on Monday after hosting envoys from the main Syrian opposition group at the U.N. offices in Geneva. He had previously met with a government delegation on Friday.

De Mistura laid out the positions of the opposition group. He said he planned to take up further talks in a new meeting with government representatives on Tuesday. He said his first goal is to keep the talks going.

He also said it was not his role to discuss ceasefires at peace negotiations in Geneva and called on major powers to immediately begin talks on how to enforce them across the country.

The envoy said he understood opposition concerns on the humanitarian situation and that if the government released women and children prisoners it would be a “signal that something is happening.”

Meanwhile, Syria’s opposition delegation at Geneva peace talks is waiting for the government negotiators to respond to a U.N. proposal on humanitarian steps “to end the suffering” in Syria, opposition spokesman Salim al-Muslat said on Monday.

“I believe we received very positive messages from the special envoy and tomorrow he will have a meeting with the regime side and we will see wait for a reply from him,” he said, after a two hour meeting with de Mistura.  

The United Nations, meanwhile, said Monday that the Syrian government has approved “in principle” a U.N. request for an aid delivery to the besieged Syrian towns of Madaya, al-Foua and Kefraya.

“Based on this, the U.N. will submit a detailed list of supplies and other details; and will include and reiterate the request for nutrition supplies and entry of nutrition/health assessment teams,” the U.N Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman, Jenes Laerke, said.

No time or date was given for the aid shipment. Madaya is besieged by Syrian government-allied forces, and al-Foua and Kefraya by insurgents.

Two senior U.S. State Department officials, Anne Patterson and Michael Ratney, told Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov in Geneva on Monday that Moscow needed to do more to help humanitarian access in Syria, a U.S. official said.

“Assistant Secretary Patterson underscored the need to work toward a political transition as outlined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254 and urged Russia to use its influence with the Asad regime to push for full humanitarian access to all Syrians in need,” a U.S. official said.

“The two sides agreed to remain in close contact on Syria as the U.N.-led negotiations proceed.”

Muslat told reporters on Monday after meeting with de Mistura that Russia was helping Syrian government in killing its people. He also said there were 18 besieged spots in Syria.


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