Syrian peace talks begin in Geneva

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UN Special Envoy for Syria de Mistura gestures during a news conference in Geneva
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura gestures during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, May 5, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

UN announced start of Syrian peace talks between Bashar-ul-Asaad’s government and opposition in Geneva on Monday.
According to UN the peace talks had begun despite government’s attack and capture of north of Aleppo.

The government troops took hold of northern hilly side of Aleppo in a recent attack on Monday putting a key supply route used by the opposition in firing range.

The opposition was of the view that the attack was being conducted with massive Russian support despite promises of goodwill steps by Syrian government.

The rebels have said that without the halting of bombing, lifting of seizure from towns and freeing of prisoners, they would not participate in the negotiations.

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“We are here for a few days. Just to be clear, only a few days. If there (is) no progress on the ground, we are leaving … We are not here for negotiations, we are here to test the regime’s intentions,” Monzer Makhous, an official from the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee, told Reuters Television on arrival in Geneva.

The opposition High Negotiations Committee indicated it would leave Geneva unless peace moves were implemented.
Bashar al-Jaafari, head of the government delegation, said on Sunday Damascus was considering options such as ceasefires, humanitarian corridors and prisoner releases.

But he suggested they might come about as a result of the talks, not as a condition to begin them.

Still, the opposition met with the UN envoy for two hours in Geneva who said that the session marked the official start of the peace talks.

The Syrian people deserved to see improvements on the ground and the opposition had a “strong point” in demanding goodwill steps, he said.

World powers, he said, should immediately begin talks on how to enforce a ceasefire: “There was a message … that
when the Geneva talks actually start, in parallel there should be the beginning of a serious discussion about ceasefires.”

The United Nations said on Monday the Syrian government had approved “in principle” a UN request for aid deliveries to the town of Madaya, under siege from government forces, as well as the towns of al-Foua and Kefraya, beset by insurgents. No date was given for aid shipments.

Opposition delegate Farrah Atassi said government forces were escalating their military campaign, making it hard to justify the opposition’s presence in Geneva.

In a previous statement, the UN envoy, Steffan de Mistura had said that the talks “cannot fail”. The Syrian crises has killed at least 250,000 people and forced 10 million from their homes up till now.