Geneva peace talks: What is the main goal of Syrian opposition?

Geneva peace talks: What is the main goal of Syrian opposition?

The Syrian opposition’s main goal in the current round of peace talks is forming an interim government in the country, while they accused the regime of hindering the success of the talks and called for Russia to use its influence to help in ending the crisis.

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.

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.

During the talks, the opposition’s delegation accused the regime delegation of seeking to hinder the peace talks as its head said the main goal of the talks should be combating terrorism without mentioning the political process, while regime forces in Syria kept breaching the ongoing shaky truce and killed dozens of civilians since the talks started.

In addition, the opposition pledged Russia to play its role as a guarantee of the truce and use its influence over the regime to force it to accept the political solution.

Forming an interim government

The Syrian opposition sees the creation of an interim government as its top priority, National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces’ member, Mohammed al-Shemali, said.

“Twenty representatives from the Syrian opposition are participating in the Geneva talks. On the part of the official [Syrian] government 11 people are involved. Nothing definite can yet be said. We have yet to start a full discussion, only some general points have been considered. It is unclear for how many days the negotiations will go on, they could be suspended tomorrow or on any other day. We demand the creation of an interim government [in Syria] at these talks. This is our basic requirement,” al-Shemali said.

Al-Shemali noted that the UN, in contrast, proposes to determine a transition period and calls upon the warring parties to hold snap elections.

“The other party [the UN] demands a transition period, a Constitution and elections,” the opposition representative said, “Our top priority is the formation of an interim government [in the first place]. Time will tell whether or not we will achieve our goal.”

Nasr al-Hariri, head of the Syrian opposition delegation, stressed on the same point.

“The political transition will open the doors for stable Syria and it is key to solve terrorism in Syria.”

According to al-Shemali, the Syrian government is “unwilling” to seek new ways to settle the crisis.

“What the [Syrian] authorities are pushing ahead with is the cessation of hostilities and the continuation of the mutual ceasefire regime,” he said, expressing skepticism regarding the prospects of the Geneva talks.

He added that the opposition has not yet held “direct negotiations” with the Assad government. However, according to al-Shemali, the opposition representatives have confirmed their readiness to talk to the official Syrian government directly.

Seeking bigger Russian role

On February 28., Russia used the veto for the seventh time to ban a UN Security Council resolution backed by Western powers that would have imposed sanctions on Assad regime over the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Salem al-Muslet, a spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) representing opposition forces at Geneva peace talks, said that the opposition regretted Russia’s seventh veto on Syria, but planned to meet Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov in hopes of convincing Russia to use its influence on Assad.

“We hope that they come here having something in mind to push the political process here in Geneva because, with this regime, we will reach nowhere unless there is a pressure and the only country that can deliver pressure on the regime is Russia,” Muslet said.

Abdul Hakim Bashar, vice president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, said that the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) will hold talks Wednesday evening with Russia’s deputy FM.

Bashar revealed that the HNC will focus on three major issues– the ceasefire, a possible attack on Ghouta, and the political solution for Syria.

“We will discuss three topics with the Russians — the ceasefire, a planned attack on Ghouta, and the political solution,” Bashar said.

“Russia offered itself to hold talks in Astana under its patronage, we want Russia to carry out patronage in Geneva too instead of being a side to the negotiations,” he added.

“Counterterrorism is a complicated subject. It could be negotiated here or in Astana… When you make a transitional government, it will be them who will decide how and when to fight terrorism.”

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.