Can Russia press on the Syrian regime to over ceasefire and peace talks?

Syria: Can Russia press on the regime to over ceasefire and peace talks?

The Syrian opposition’s delegation to the peace talks in Geneva said it wants to meet Russian envoys to discuss Moscow’s broken ceasefire promises and the pressure that Russia can put on regime over the both issues.

The new round of Syria peace talks has started in Geneva on February 23. after it was previously planned to be on February 8. but delayed in order to take advantage of the results of Astana settlement about the ceasefire in Syria, which was planned by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, addressed the both delegations asking them to work together to help in ending the crisis in the country.

“I ask you to work together. I know it’s not going to be easy to end this horrible conflict and lay the foundation for a country at peace with itself, sovereign and unified,” de Mistura told the delegates sitting opposite each other on the stage of the U.N. assembly hall in Geneva.

De Mistura told the representatives of both delegations that they had a joint responsibility to end a conflict that had killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.

However, the ceasefire breaches and repeated air strikes by Assad regime on civilians’ areas have sparked tension and threatened to hinder the talks again.

Russian efforts needed

Russia, Iran, and Turkey said they were ready to help broker a Syria peace deal, and organized peace talks meeting in Kazakhstan on January 23.

The meetings were made on two rounds, and were focused on ways to strengthen the ceasefire.

The talks have ended with Russia, Turkey, and Iran making a joint statement about the consequences of the talks and agreeing on a mechanism to support a delicate ceasefire and to support a new round of peace talks in Geneva.

Ahead of Thursday’s opening ceremony, Moscow had called for the government to “silence the skies”, but violence has continued and the warring sides have traded blame while appearing no closer to actual negotiations.

A weekend of bombings and air strikes in Syria has rattled the talks that began in Geneva last week.

“The Russians did not fulfill a ceasefire agreement despite the promises from the highest levels of the Russian delegation,” Mohammed Alloush, a negotiator and member of the Jaish al-Islam rebel group, told Reuters.

Salem al-Muslet, the HNC spokesman, said that Russia, as a guarantor country of the Syrian ceasefire regime, should take a well-balanced position and use its opportunities to impose pressure upon the regime and Iran to stop their crimes and terrorism against the Syrian civilians.

“Russia’s position must be balanced, we do not want it to bend over to the opposition or remain on its position supporting the regime. We want it to bend to the Syrian people’s side. The people of Syria are suffering, and we are hoping that these sufferings will end. Six years are enough, and the price is very high. Russia should put pressure on the regime, it could do this and exert pressure on Iran and its armed groups. We need to stop the death of the Syrian people,” Muslet said.

After a two-hour meeting with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura, the head of the opposition delegation Nasr al-Hariri said he had also submitted two documents protesting against the grim humanitarian situation and violations of the ceasefire.

Hariri said he believed Moscow was shifting its stance but that he wanted to see constructive support on Tuesday.

He pressed for “practical support that manifests itself in backing for the political process and the demands of the Syrian people by putting pressure on the (Syrian) regime to engage seriously in this process.”

Games by the regime

In addition, the Syrian opposition accused the Assad regime of trying to hinder the peace talks in other ways, as its delegation is moving away from discussing the political solution by saying that fighting terrorism is the most important part.

Nasr Hariri said that the regime’s delegation is using a bombing incident by insurgent group in Homs to pass its agendas and move away from the essential goal of the peace talks.

“[UN Special Envoy for Syria] Staffan de Mistura said first he wants to focus on political transition. We expected Jaafari to be that tough, because of what happened today…. But the thing that regime does not accept is transition. Their accusations are not real,” Hariri told reporters when asked to comment on Jaafari’s statement.

“We were the first ones to condemn terrorism… We are here to combat terrorism,” Hariri told reporters.

Salem al-Muslet, the HNC spokesman, also slammed the regime’s delegation’s statement.

“We are all against terrorism and we know how to fight against it in Syria. This issue was discussed in Astana. However, here in Geneva, the government representatives are making terrorism a cornerstone issue. They want to discuss only fight against terrorism and avoid other issues,” Muslet told Sputnik.

Muslet noted that the Geneva talks format was created to discuss the political process in Syria.

“The regime cannot fight against terrorism, because it creates terrorism in Syria and commits crimes against the Syrian people,” the HNC spokesman added.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.