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Syria peace talks resume without regime delegation

Local | 2017-12-06 03:47:21
Syria peace talks resume without regime delegation
U.N.-backed peace talks for war-ravaged Syria resumed in Geneva Tuesday but without Syrian regime negotiators, who sources said have yet to determine if they will return. An eighth round of peace talks aimed at ending Syria’s 6-year-old war began in Geneva last week.

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura announced shortly after the talks began that they would be extended by two weeks.

Negotiations were paused over the weekend, but both sides had been expected to return to Geneva to resume discussions Tuesday. But only the opposition delegation showed up.

Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the government, reported that the regime’s delegation was in Damascus and was not expected to leave either Tuesday or Wednesday.

It said the invitation to return to the talks “is still being studied by the Syrian leadership.”

When asked about the delay, U.N. spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said the government delegation had “been invited back in Geneva as of today [Tuesday]. The Special Envoy stands ready to engage them when they return.”

After the opposition’s meeting with de Mistura Tuesday afternoon, delegation chief Nasr Hariri said it was time the U.N. stated which party was sabotaging the peace process.

“Now it is the responsibility of the international community, of the U.N. and the Special Envoy to announce to the world who is the party who is rejecting the negotiations,” he told reporters.

The government delegation left Geneva last Saturday, after its chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari said there were “big problems in this round of talks.”

He was referring to a communique published by the opposition last month in Riyadh signaling that it was maintaining its insistence on President Bashar Assad’s removal.

The opposition, united in one delegation for the first time, has defied calls to give up on its demand that Assad must step down before any peace deal can be reached.

Jaafari warned that “there will be no progress” if the opposition maintained that position.

De Mistura Friday published a document suggesting 12 principles for a future Syria that he suggested the two sides could agree, including that the country “shall be democratic and non-sectarian.”

He asked the parties to discuss the points and add their thoughts before the talks resumed.

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