04/19/2016, 10.07
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Syrian conflict: Opposition quits UN peace talks

The leadership of the High Negotiations Committee (Hnc) protests the escalation of violence that has hit the country. For the opposition the government army "has worsened the situation." According to Damascus "Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey want to derail the negotiations." The United Nations mediates between the parties, although "the gap remains large".

Geneva (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The United Nations has redoubled its diplomatic efforts to save the ongoing Syrian peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland. The opposition suspended its "formal participation" in the  "indirect" negotiations, in protest against the escalation of violence that hit the country in recent days, in violation of the truce. The fighting is concentrated in particular around Aleppo, the "northern capital", as confirmed in recent days to AsiaNews by the Apostolic Vicar of the Latins.

In addition, the High Negotiations Committee (Hnc), the largest rebel faction and supported by the Saudis, is no longer willing to accept the government's veto on the future of President Bashar al Assad.

According to Hnc spokesman Salem al-Meslet, "since the beginning of the talks in Geneva, the Assad regime has worsened the situation on the ground", particularly in Aleppo where the worst violence is concentrated. However, according to Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen the Nusra Front was the first to resume fighting.

For opposition leaders the talks should be put "on hold" to focus on ways to "put an end to violations of the truce" by the government.  2 thousand violations have been reported since 27 February.

The opposition, concludes Meslet, is committed to finding a political solution to the violence and pursue the path of peace through diplomacy. Therefore, despite the suspension of negotiations, the Hnc leaders remain "in Geneva, ready to enter into" serious negotiations.

Damascus representatives responded by accusing Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar - close to the opposition – of making every attempt to derail the negotiations. Their governments, says Bashar al-Jaafari, "do not want to stop the bloodshed in Syria and do not want a political solution" to a conflict which, since March 2011, has caused at least 270 thousand deaths and millions displaced, creating an unprecedented humanitarian emergency.

The Syrian government spokesman blames the opposition and the countries that support them, irritated "by the pressure exerted on the ground by the Syrian army”, which in recent weeks has regained some strategic areas of cultural and historical importance, such as Palmyra.

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura warns that it is necessary to continue the dialogue, which kicked off on 13 April, as scheduled. The UN delegation will meet with the opposition in their hotel in Geneva "to continue technical discussions", including the part concerning the political transition. Though, de Mistura warns, "the gap [between the parties] remains large."

In spite of the commitment of the United Nations representatives, the choice of the opposition is a blow to the hopes for peace and negotiations for a political solution that includes: a new Constitution; Presidential elections; parliamentary elections, to be completed by September 2017.

Meanwhile, the international powers are trying to save the fragile ceasefire and pressing for negotiations. In a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama, the two leaders have reached an agreement to strengthen the cease-fire, judging it "essential" in view of a - future - lasting peace. Both insist then on the huge “significance" of the talks in Switzerland under the UN aegis, the only hope of peace for the country.

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