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Syrian opposition leader says opposition was poorly represented at Geneva talks

February 18, 2014, 1:30 UTC+3 BEIRUT

The first round of the Geneva-2 international peace conference on Syria was held in January and ended with no substantive results

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BEIRUT, February 18, 1:15 /ITAR-TASS/. The second round of talks in Geneva saw no particular progress due to “weak representation of the Syrian opposition,” Hassan Abdel Azim, the leader of Syria’s National Coordination Committee (NCC), said in an interview with Al-Watan newspaper.

“The absence at the negotiating table of a delegation representing real opposition was the reason why dialogue failed,” he said on Monday.

The first round of the Geneva-2 international peace conference on Syria was held in January and ended with no substantive results. The parties to the Syrian conflict resumed talks on February 10, but the second round of intra-Syrian talks, which ended in Geneva on February 15, brought no progress either. The sides are set to continue their discussions.

Geneva-2, organized by Russia and the United States, seeks to negotiate a solution to the Syrian crisis which has claimed over 100,000 lives and displaced millions since its start in 2011.

Azim emphasized that a well-balanced delegation with participation of the NCC that represents patriotically minded opposition inside of Syria should be formed in order to continue the process of settlement launched in Geneva.

At a meeting with Ahmad Jarba, the leader of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF), in Cairo on February 6, Azim proposed forming an opposition delegation on a parity basis - eight representatives from each faction. But the initiative was rejected.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Sunday that he did not believe the second round of intra-Syrian talks was a failure. The Syrian government delegation, he said, pushed for an agenda in Geneva in which the issue of stopping violence and fighting terrorism was in the first place.

This, Muallem said, was the reason why the United States, Britain and France accused official Damascus of being responsible for lack of progress at the talks.

“We will continue dialogue until positive results are achieved,” the minister said, confirming that the Syrian leadership has serious intentions to “seek political settlement of the crisis.”

The position of the Syrian government delegation during the second round of intra-Syrian talks was that the fight against terrorism should be discussed first and a transitional governing body later. But the Syrian opposition insisted the transitional government issue, mentioned in the Geneva Communique, should top the discussion agenda.

The Geneva Communique was adopted on June 30, 2012 at a conference of an “action group” on Syria in Geneva. That conference is now commonly referred to as “Geneva-1.” Geneva-2 is its logical continuation.

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