Syrian government and opposition moving towards a political solution

Government and opposition envoys present proposals at “indirect” talks in Geneva as UN mediator works on finding "common ground." “Direct" talks are not excluded. Kerry will be in Moscow next week. In the last 14 months, the Islamic State group lost 22 per cent of the territories it controlled in Syria and Iraq.

Geneva (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Syria's government and main opposition bloc have submitted documents to the United Nations outlining broad principles for a political solution to the country's five-year civil war.

In the context of the "indirect" talks that began on Monday under UN auspices in Geneva, Switzerland, envoys for the Assad regime and the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) presented a series of proposals.

UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura said he would "analyse" the positions offered by the regime and opposition in a bid to find any possible common ground.

De Mistura made the comment after meeting with the Saudi-backed HNC. "We . . . exchanged some papers but also ideas on how to get deeper at the next meeting on the issue of transitional processes," he said.

The UN envoy has described Syria’s political transition as "the mother of all issues".

He gave no details concerning the documents submitted by representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom de Mistura met with on Monday.

However, the regime's lead negotiator, Bashar al-Jaafari, has previously confirmed that Damascus has outlined its general ideas for a political solution to the war, which has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.

In its meeting with de Mistura, the HNC also called for urgent action to address the plight of the regime’s political prisoners.

HNC spokeswoman Basma Kodmani said the issue of detainees "is not up to negotiation," calling for Damascus to immediately release anyone “illegally” held.

Syria's main opposition group also said it was ready to negotiate in the same room with the regime, if ongoing peace talks in Geneva make progress.

"We are ready in the next stage to go in direct negotiations with the regime," said the spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Salem al-Meslet.

He specified that these potential direct talks would be "like what happened in Geneva Two," referring to 2014 negotiations during which the two sides were seated in the same room, with talks mediated by then UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Meanwhile, the international community is moving on the issue as well. US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Russia next week to discuss Syria. This comes after Moscow announced that it was withdrawing most of its forces from the country.

Mr Kerry said Russia's move, along with the opening of UN-mediated Syria talks in Geneva, may be "the best opportunity" to end the conflict.

Still, Russia said that it would continue its air strikes in Syria against the Islamic State (IS) group despite the pullout. 

In fact, as the latter got under way, Russian air strikes were reported against IS militants near the IS-held city of Palmyra, where the group destroyed some of the local world-famous antiquities.

A new analysis also suggests that IS may have lost up to 22 per cent of the territory it held in Syria and Iraq over the past 14 months.

It is also estimated that IS lost 40 per cent of its revenue – much of it from oil – after losing control of much of the Turkish-Syrian border.