Syrian factions in Geneva for peace talks

A fresh round of Syria peace talks between government representatives and armed opposition factions got underway at the UN's Geneva headquarters on Tuesday.

IANS| Last Updated: May 16, 2017, 16:33 PM IST

Geneva: A fresh round of Syria peace talks between government representatives and armed opposition factions got underway at the UN's Geneva headquarters on Tuesday.

The UN's special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura is to oversee the discussions, which are to involve a negotiation team from the Damascus government headed by Syria's permanent ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, and a rebel delegation fronted by Naser al-Hariri, Efe news reported.

It is set to be the fifth such meeting at the UN since 2016 and is part of the negotiation process aimed at de-escalating the violence that has swept through the Arab country since the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.

Similar peace talks have been taking place in the Kazakh capital, Astana, under the auspices of Russia, Turkey and Iran -- three countries with powerful roles in the Syrian conflict.

While Moscow and Tehran have offered consistent backing to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Ankara has sided with groups allied to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, especially in the north of Syria, where Turkish troops recently bolstered an operation to recover ground lost to the Islamic State terror organisation.

The Astana talks have led to a fragile ceasefire and later the creation of four safe zones in areas most prone to a return to violent unrest.

Al-Hariri has, however, said that "the path to freedom in Syria passes through Geneva", contradicting the Damascus government's apparently dismissive attitude to the UN talks, which were recently described by Assad as "just for show".

Such accusations are not uncommon from the Syrian government, which at the beginning of the UN talks protested the participation of Hariri's Syrian National Coalition negotiation team, alleging that several members of the coalition were from terror groups.

The talks pressed on, however, with four main aims set out by de Mistura: the creation of a credible, non-sectarian and inclusive government; a time-frame for drawing up a new Constitution; free and fair elections with international monitors; and the continued fight against terror.

The Syrian government currently prioritises its so-called fight against terror groups, a term it uses to refer to almost all opposition factions, including the FSA.

The opposition, meanwhile, has called for a political transition in Syria, which would involve the removal of Assad from power.