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Intra-Syrian Peace Talks Open in Geneva

Feb. 23, 2017 (EIRNS)—The intra-Syrian peace talks opened today, with a welcoming ceremony in the UN assembly hall in Geneva. Both sides were seated opposite each other, according to news reports, but did not speak.

"I ask you to work together," said UN Special Envoy Staffan De Mistura.

"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. It is your opportunity and solemn responsibility ... not to condemn future generations of Syrian children to long years of bitter and bloody conflict."

De Mistura warned against failure of the talks, saying that the cost would be "more deaths, more atrocities." He added, "We can do a lot of good work while we hope the ceasefire holds."

In a press conference yesterday, de Mistura said that he is not expecting any breakthroughs, but he intends to maintain momentum towards a settlement. He warned that progress won’t always be apparent.

"Don’t be surprised, if there will be rhetoric[al] statements, and even dismissive statements among them, aggressive ones. They are part of what we should expect,"

he said, while asking the media not to jump to conclusions and resort to insulting the talks’ participants. "We will be aiming at substance," he stressed.

When the Syrian opposition delegation, led by the High Negotiations Commission, arrived, yesterday, it declared its readiness for face-to-face talks with the government negotiators.

"We hope and we want the talks to be direct," HNC representative Munzar Mahus told TASS. "Negotiations should take place in the presence of an international mediator, that is the UN," Mahus noted. "However, the problem is that the agenda of the talks is unclear at the moment." And the first topic on the agenda should be? "We should discuss the transition of power process in the first place." For the Syrian opposition, "transition of power" means the removal from power of Syrian President Bashar al Assad at the beginning of the process, but this is not allowed for in UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which is what governs de Mistura’s mediation effort.

"We will be very reluctant," de Mistura said, "to engage in pre-conditions, and in fact I will be refusing them."