- Alexei Borodavkin Russia ambassador in Geneva - Syrian opposition no longer demands that Assad must go: Alexei Borodavkin

Syrian opposition no longer demands that Assad must go: Alexei Borodavkin

nsnbc : The latest rounds of technical peace talks in Astana and political peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, have shown that the main Syrian opposition no longer demands the immediate resignation of the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, said Russia’s envoy to international representations. The opposition High Negotiations Committee, however, stressed that the regime stalls talks about the constitution and political change.

Alexei Borodavkin, Russia’s ambassador in Geneva. Photo: UN

Alexei Borodavkin, told reporters on Saturday that during the seventh round of peace talks in Geneva which ended on Friday produced positive results, especially a “correction” in how the main opposition approached the negotiations.  “The essence of this correction is that during this round the opposition never once demanded the immediate resignation of President Bashar al-Assad and the legitimate Syrian government,” Borodavkin stated.

“The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) and its backers in Western and Gulf capitals had realized that peace needed to come first, and then political reforms could be negotiated,” he said. In previous peace talks the HNC and its backers had repeatedly stated that “Assad must go.” However, the request is rejected by Russia, Syria’s closest ally and the foreign country with strongest military presence in alliance with Assad in the Syrian Arab Republic.

At the UN talks in Geneva, Syrian negotiators focused primarily on the fight against terrorism within the country, particularly the presence of ISIS. Political discussions were largely avoided. While Russian representatives like Borodavkin, and Syrian delegates like the Syrian Arab Republic’s negotiator and UN envoy Dr. Bashar Al-Jaafari portrayed this as positive, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) stated otherwise.

Nasr Al-Hariri  - Nasr al Hariri HNC Syria geneva Switzerland Jul 2017 300x200 - Syrian opposition no longer demands that Assad must go: Alexei Borodavkin

Nasr Al-Hariri

The HNC blamed the Syrian government and Russia for systematically avoiding concrete political talks by constitutional experts. On Friday, Nasr al-Hariri, the head of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee delegation to the seventh round of Geneva talks, stressed that the regime continues to refuse to engage in the political process. He was calling on the United Nations to fulfill its obligations to implement international resolutions on political transition in Syria.

Speaking after a meeting with U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura on the third day of the latest round of talks in Geneva on Wednesday, Hariri said: “We held the first meeting with the U.N. envoy today. The meeting discussed the framework of the political process.” “We participated in very useful technical meetings in June and July about baskets 2 and 3 [governance and the constitution]. Today the discussions were focused on the essence of the political process to implement the U.N. Security Council resolutions relating to political transition,” Hariri added. “What we see is the refusal of the regime to participate in political negotiations. It will not get involved in political discussions or negotiations.. … The international community and the U.N. Security Council, which has passed resolutions to bring about political transition in Syria, must fulfill their obligations and fully assume their roles and name the side impeding a political solution.” The HNC, Hariri said, has delivered to the U.N. a memorandum about detainees in the prisons of the Assad regime, “especially as no progress on this issue has been achieved in the Astana meetings.”

The Syrian government has yet to negotiate directly with the opposition since there is no unified delegation to meet with at this time. The opposition is spread among the HNC in Syria, the group known as the Cairo platform and another group known as the Moscow platform, who all claim to represent the opposition of the Syrian regime. UN mediator, Staffan de Mistura has met each side separately in the last seven rounds of talks with the outcome being only a decision on what to discuss which include a new constitution, reformed governance, new elections and fighting terrorism, but included no real blueprint on how to carry out every request.

Borodavkin stated that a unified opposition delegation would depend on their willingness to compromise with Assad and the Syrian government. “If they will be ready to make deals with the government delegation, that is one thing. If they again slide into ultimatums and preconditions that are not realistic, then this will not fly. This will lead the negotiations, be it direct or indirect, into a deadlock,” Borodavkin said. Borodavkin also stressed the importance of stronger opposition representation including the Kurdish population since they were Syrian citizens and have their own political and military influence within the country. But he stated it was up to de Mistura how and when it would be possible to incorporate the Kurds into the peace process.

Borodavkin said that Moscow has reservations about US ideas regarding security zones in Syria. “First of all, it is not clear what it is. … Secondly, first of all it is necessary to address the Syrian government and to ask whether it agrees to have some security zones organized in its territory. … As for the technical aspect, it is an endless list of questions, problems and the rest,” he said. “I have not seen anywhere a ready concept of this suggestion. I also have may questions to the US and Turkish counterparts regarding this topic,” he said.

The planning of Syria’s restoration should begin immediately and the European Union could play a major role in this process, Borodavkin stressed. “The European Union could have given major assistance to Syria,” he said. Russia expects during the Geneva talks, the parties would begin working on Syria’s future constitution, Russia’s envoy said. “We hope for progress in work on constitution during this round of talks,” he said, adding back in April 2016 the UN Secretary General’s envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura published a document demonstrating common approaches from parties to the talks to the Syrian settlement.

“As for the airstrikes, the ceasefire means they would not be delivered on the oppositional groups, which had joined the ceasefire,” the Russian diplomat said. “This obligation is observed both by the Russian Aerospace Force, and by the Syrian Air Force, but, of course, this is not effective against terrorist groups: first of all Daesh and Jabhat Al-Nusra, as well as groups and gang affiliated with them.”.

F/AK – nsnbc 16.07.2017


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