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Intra-Syria talks officially resume in Geneva on March 9

March 09, 8:32 UTC+3 GENEVA
Initially the round of talks was to start on February 25 but was postponed until March 7 and later rescheduled for March 9
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© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

GENEVA, March 9. /TASS/. The Intra-Syria talks that were "paused" in early February, are to officially resume in Geneva on Wednesday.

Although the delegations of the Syrian government and the opposition have not arrived in Switzerland yet, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has decided not to repeatedly postpone the start of the next round.

Initially the round of talks was to start on February 25 but was postponed until March 7 and later rescheduled for March 9.

Speaking at a press briefing on the eve of the talks Staffan de Mistura’s Press Secretary Jesse Shain did not give an answer to the question of who Mistura will meet today. She said that from March 9, the Special Envoy will be ready to accept any delegation will hold preparatory meetings with them.

Shahin said that some delegations would come to Geneva on March 12, 13, 14. This is due to "logistical difficulties", in particular, with Geneva’s hosting the International motor show from March 3 to 13, she said.

She added that Staffan de Mistura believes that substantive negotiations will begin in Geneva not later than March 14.

Earlier an official with the Syrian mission at the UN headquarters in Geneva told TASS that the delegation of official Damascus was invited to arrive for the talks on March 14.

As for the Syrian opposition, it is unclear when its delegation will arrive to Geneva, and whether it will arrive. There have been mixed signals from its representatives.

On Monday, Salim al-Muslet, spokesman for the High National Committee (HNC), told the Al Arabiya TV channel that the Syrian opposition "has not yet made the decision to go to the talks in Geneva."

According to him, the authorities in Damascus must meet a number of conditions before the resumption of contacts in Geneva.

First of all, it concerns the removal of the siege of the cities and unimpeded passage of humanitarian convoys, he said.

Earlier High Negotiations Committee (HNC) spokesman Riad Naasan Agha told the Al-Sharq al-Awsat pan-Arab newspaper that the opposition delegation "will go to Geneva on Friday, March 11, after it convinced of the complete cessation of military operations by government forces.

As explained by the Agha, establishing the national unity government is unacceptable for the opposition and they want to go directly to the discussion on the establishment of a transitional authority where President Bashar Assad will have no role.

Meanwhile, Staffan de Mistura said he will hold proximity talks which allows for a lot of flexibility. In other words, he will meet with each delegation separately in an attempt to pave the way for a compromise.

When announcing the start of the new round in late February, de Mistura said that the agenda remains the same: the country’s new government, a new constitution, presidential and parliamentary elections in the next 18 months.

In late February, the special envoy proceeded from the fact that the first stage of the negotiations will last three weeks.

After that the parties and the mediator will reassess the situation, he said. However, since late February situation has changed. The fact that "substantive talks" can take place not earlier than March 14 will likely shorten the first stage.

For this round of talks same delegations were invited as the last time.

In his report to the UN Security Council in late February, Staffan de Mistura, said he plans to resume negotiations with the same participants from the Syrian government and the opposition, as well as a group of individuals associated with the meetings in Moscow and Cairo.

On Tuesday, Jesse Shahin confirmed that invitations had not been sent to other representatives. That means that Kurds have not been invited to Geneva again.

Russia repeatedly expressed criticism over this situation. On March 2, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that "at all the meetings which concern the launch of the intra-Syrian dialogue we raise this issue (about participation of Kurds in the negotiations - TASS)."

According to her, Russia’s stance position is that "Kurds must be involved in the negotiations under the auspices of the UN."

At the same time Zakharova stressed that "the UN is in charge of the organization of talks.

"We do not discuss and decide with the Organization behind the scene on who is invited and who is not. We have the right to express our opinion on this issue, and we did it: Without Kurds, this process, this dialogue very much suffers," - she said.

As for a possibility of forming a united delegation of the opposition, it looks like the time is not ripe for that yet.

Earlier, speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Qadri Jamil, representative of the Syrian leadership of the Popular Front for Change and Liberation said that "the second round will start after the first round is over - that means that there will be two delegations of the opposition."

"Fundamentally we are not against the single delegation from the opposition, but whether the other side will accept it - I think it won’t. It is not our fault that problems remain," Qadri Jamil said adding that "even without a single delegation the talks will continue.

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