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Syrian regime to rejoin Geneva talks on Sunday

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks at a meeting with the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) delegation, during the UN-led Intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 30, 2017. (REUTERS/Xu Jinquan/Pool)
JEDDAH: Syrian regime negotiators will return to Geneva this weekend to rejoin UN-backed peace talks, after leaving the city in protest last week, the UN envoy said Thursday.
“The government has informed us that they would fly back to Geneva on Sunday the 10th of December,” UN mediator Staffan de Mistura told reporters.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition negotiators in Geneva, according to Agency France-Presse (AFP), are receiving a steady stream of visitors, all bearing the same request: Freeze the demand that Assad resign as a precondition for a peace deal.
“Most of the diplomats that have visited the delegation have repeated the same call,” an opposition delegate told AFP.
“You have to be realistic if you want to solve the conflict,” he described diplomats as telling the opposition.
“They want us to freeze the demand that Assad step down, but not abandon it completely.”
Opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi, however, told Arab News: “No party is actually pressing the opposition to remove any conditions, because the opposition has come to Geneva with a very clear statement in its Riyadh communique: We have no preconditions.”
Al-Aridi said: “The objective of seeing Assad out of power in the early stages of the transition is a goal that has not changed for the opposition.”
He added: “It needs judging from how the regime is not even considering the worst humanitarian cases to which it can respond in one minute. It is an indication that we have a very problematic partner for peace negotiations. That speaks for itself.”
Bahia Al-Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist who fled regime persecution, told Arab News: “Rather than applying pressure to the Syrian opposition, the international community must continue to apply pressure to the regime and its allies. Countries like the UK should continue to support us in condemning the regime and its brutality.”
She added: “It is not possible to freeze demands for Assad to step down because Syria’s future cannot involve him. There can be no real solution without agreement on the departure or removal of Assad and anyone involved in shedding the blood of the Syrians. The regime will continue to stall talks in Geneva because it knows that Syrian people do not want to see more violence and do not want to live under the regime. They want democratic change.”
She said: “The UN peace talks are essential to making progress toward a democratic solution. It is clear that the regime does not want peace nor is it serious about reaching a solution in the best interests of civilians. But we cannot give up hope of achieving democracy through the democratic channels we have available.”

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