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Regime only wants to make Syria safe for Assad: Opposition

Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd-R), his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad (2nd-L), Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R), and Syrian Armed Forces' chief of staff Ali Abdullah Ayyoub. (AFP)
JEDDAH: The goal of the Syrian regime’s delegation is to make Syria safe for Bashar Assad, while the opposition’s goal is to make the country safe for “our people to come home,” Yahya Al-Aridi, opposition spokesman at the Geneva peace talks, told Arab News on Wednesday.
It followed reports that the regime delegation in Geneva is refusing to negotiate with the opposition directly and insisting on only discussing terrorism.
The opposition has been calling for the “indirect” peace talks — with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura’s team shuttling between the delegations — to become direct.
Asked why the regime is avoiding direct talks, Al-Aridi said: “The regime delegation is afraid to negotiate transition because it knows that leads to freedom.”
Another opposition official in Geneva, Ahmad Ramadan, told The Associated Press that the regime delegation has also refused to discuss three of the four main topics proposed by de Mistura — a new constitution, governance, elections and combating terrorism.
He said the regime is insisting only on discussing terrorism.
Al-Aridi said the regime uses terrorism as an excuse for delay. “It claims to be fighting terrorism while bombing civilians. The way to rid our country of terrorism is to make Syria stable, with a constitution that sets the people free.”
On the regime’s insistence that the opposition drop its demand for transition without Assad, Al-Aridi said: “The point of any negotiation is that different sides have different goals, not preconditions.”
Bahia Al-Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist who fled regime persecution, told Arab News: “Many twists and turns are likely as the negotiations intensify, but we should remain optimistic about the prospect of a democratic transition for Syria.
“After years of suffering, we live in hope that breakthroughs will come and ordinary Syrian people will be set free from the regime that they have been rejecting for years,” she said.
Al-Mardini added: “For this to happen, it will require support from the international community to pressure the regime to engage seriously in the political process, so that we can end this war and begin building a new Syria where human rights and democracy are respected.”

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