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Talks on Syrian settlement in Geneva ‘back to zero’

February 03, 8:35 UTC+3 GENEVA
The contradictions of sides related to terrorism and humanitarian issues have become clearer in the delegations’ statements
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GENEVA, February 3. /TASS/. The intra-Syrian talks that UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura has been trying to launch in Switzerland’s Geneva again failed to gain steam on Tuesday.

The contradictions of sides related to terrorism and humanitarian issues have become clearer in the delegations’ statements. Their positions have been unchanged since the third attempt began to launch the peaceful settlement in the country torn by the five-year civil war.

One meeting instead of two

Out of the two planned meetings only one - with the representatives of the Syrian government - was held on Tuesday. The delegation of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) backed by Riyadh failed to come to the Palace of Nations. The head of Damascus delegation said the official launch of intra-Syrian consultations declared by de Mistura was his "personal interpretation" and the process was in a preparation stage while the talks had not started.

"No conditions have been created yet. We are in the preparation stage preceding the official beginning of these indirect discussions," Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari said after a meeting with the UN envoy that lasted more than two and a half hours.

No list of HNC delegation

Jaafari, who heads the delegation of the Syrian government, answered the questions of reporters and it became clear that like two years ago when the Geneva 2 conference failed the delegates of Damascus believe the issue of the fight against terrorism is of principal importance. He said no lists of delegates from the opposition have been provided so far.

"We still do not know who specifically we are to talk with in Geneva. The composition of the delegation from the other side (the Syrian opposition) is unknown," the diplomat said.

Opposition’s demands

The delegation of the HNC failed to come to the Palace of Nations in Geneva but talked to the reporters outside the UN headquarters. All the statements said before the talks start the provisions of the UN Security Council’s resolution 2254 need to be implemented. They call to solve three key issues - ensure access to the seized towns, stop attacks on civilians and release women and children from jails.

Talks could end in failure

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov who has been in Geneva since February 1 warned that linking the beginning of the intra-Syrian talks with the meeting by Damascus of a number of demands may signal an attempt to block the process.

"It is in no way provided by the United Nations Security Council resolution. That is why such attempts are evidence of the non-constructive position, or, probably, some plans to block the beginning of the talks," he said.

UN envoy’s plans unknown

Just a day after de Mistura announced that indirect intra-Syrian talks were officially launched the statements of both delegations showed that they have another opinion.

The UN press service prefers not to announce de Mistura’s plans for the next day as the process is very sensitive. Salem al-Muslad, a spokesman for the delegation of the HNC, told TASS it may come for the meeting with de Mistura on Wednesday.

Still no one expected the sides of the Syrian conflict that has claimed more than 250,000 lives since 2011, according to the UN, to bring closer their positions quickly.

Ahead of the talks, de Mistura warned that the process could take at least half a year. Gatilov said the negotiations could take longer. "We should not become obsessed with a tight deadline. If this takes more than half a year, but the process is ongoing, we should not give it up," the Russian diplomat said.

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