Published: Thu, March 02, 2017
Culture | By Kelly Harrison

Syrian opposition adamant that an elected body drafts the country's constitution

"We sincerely hope to persuade Russian Federation to stand by the Syrian people", said HNC delegation chief Nasr al-Hariri after his latest talks with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura.

But shortly after arriving to Geneva on Tuesday, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov backed government demands that "terrorism should not be ignored" in Geneva.

Russian Federation seized the initiative in Syria after the collapse of peace attempts with the the last months of former President Barack Obama's administration.

"Iran never wants any solution in Syria, the way they act on the ground shows that they want this war to continue", the HNC's chief spokesman, Salem al-Muslet, said in an interview in the Swiss city.

The opposition says political transition - specifically the fate of President Assad - should be added to the discussions.

De Mistura handed a working paper on procedural issues to delegations on Friday but there appears little prospect of moving to the key political issues that he had hoped to begin addressing.

He seeks to get the two sides to accept an agenda based on Security Council Resolution 2254, focusing initially on a new constitution as well as UN-supervised elections.

Russia, Turkey and Iran sponsored parallel talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, where they reinforced the ceasefire, paving the way for a resumption of United Nations -led mediations after a 10-month hiatus.

United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura said a militant attack in Homs on Saturday was a deliberate attempt to wreck the Geneva peace talks, while the warring sides traded blame and appeared no closer to actual negotiations.

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Government forces launched attacks around Qaboun in the days leading up to the current round of peace talks, the fiercest assault there for more than two years, according to the Observatory and a medical worker in the area.

"We met with (Syrian government negotiator Bashar) Ja'afari and he reconfirmed that he is not against the agenda proposal, but he said that terrorism should not be ignored and should also be on the agenda", Gatilov said.

Speaking after Wednesday's meeting with the HNC delegation, the Russian deputy minister was cautious.

"This meeting was more positive than the one before", he told reporters.

"This was a sound meeting, constructive discussion about the Syrian negotiation round".

"What is new about these Geneva talks is that the sides agreed with the suggestion of de Mistura to discuss all issues in a parallel mode, so that there are several tracks".

Iran and Assad are openly opposed to Russia's more flexible stance, which it sees as necessary to involve the USA and its allies in a post-war reconstruction and secure an exit strategy for its military campaign in Syria, said Shumilin of the Institute for US and Canada Studies.

"As soon Manbij is captured, Turkey will stop its operation in Syria", he said in Moscow on Monday.

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