Russian delegation, Syrian opposition hold meeting

Russian delegation, Syrian opposition hold meeting
General view of a meeting with Syria's main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) delegation and UN Special Envoy for Syria during Syria peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool
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GENEVA – A Russian delegation and High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition (HNC) on Wednesday (March 29) both reflected positively on their direct meetings as the fifth round of the UN-backed Syria peace talks entered into its sixth day.

Speaking after their one-hour meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov and the Syrian opposition said they hope this round of negotiations can make progress to ensure that peace talks can continue in the future.

"We had a very open exchange of views on the current stage of the negotiations. And we came to the common conclusion that we would be very much in favor of having good development this round and continuation of discussions, in order to reach the goal of independent territorial integrity in Syria, a pluralistic state and all of these questions should be decided by the Syrians themselves in the course of the negotiations," said Gennady Gatilov.

Gatilov said they did not discuss the opposition's calls for the stand-down of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which will be dealt with by U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura. Referring to the worrying issue of a Syrian ceasefire, he said it was not hopeless and the ceasefire agreement had been observed to some extent according to Russia's observations. He added that the resumption of that not only needs each Syrian party's cooperation, but also that of other countries.

The HNC said the meeting with Russia centered on Syria's political process and humanitarian aid. The HNC said it stressed its concern about the progress made in this area. It also handed its proposals for a transition of power and schedule of elections to Staffan de Mistura.

"We believe that these talks have been very positive. Russia also expressed its will in holding such discussions to promote the ongoing Geneva talks in the future. Russia said the next round of Astana talks will be held in the first week of May, which on this occasion is making preparations for the political progress made here in Geneva," said Salem al-Meslet, HNC spokesman.

The HNC also blamed Syrian government representatives for discussing anti-terrorism instead of peace talks, which they said the government made no progress in during these talks. The opposition also said the Syrian government disrupted the ceasefire which forced residents to flee their hometown.