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UN Does Not Expect Breakthrough at Syria Peace Talks

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UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura talks to reporters on the eve of resumption of peace talks on Syria, on February 22, 2017 at the United Nations offices in Geneva.
Rival negotiators arrived in Geneva on February 22 for UN-brokered talks aimed at ending Syria’s six-year conflict with persistent violence and deadlock over the country’s political future dampening hopes of a breakthrough. / AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

After a 10 month hiatus the U.N. will resume Syria peace talks in Geneva on Thursday aimed at finding a political solution to end the war that has killed more than 310,000 people and displaced millions.

Special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Wednesday that he expects no breakthrough but the beginning of a series of rounds of negotiations.

“We are not having any excessive expectations, let’s be frank,” de Mistura told a news conference “I think it will be worthwhile. We are going to give it a serious try.”

Two rounds of diplomatic negotiations sponsored by Russia in the Kazakh capital of Astana in mid February failed to even adopt a closing statement and saw opposing Syrian groups exchanging angry tirades at each other and the brokers.

The last round of U.N-mediated talks were held in Geneva in April 2016 but collapsed without progress. Although a ceasefire exists officially, though perhaps not in reality, there has been little movement on the issues in the previous round of talks. The point of contention at each of the previous rounds of Syrian peace talks was the inability of various opposition factions to find common ground and form a single delegation.

In his renewed attempt to bring diverse factions of the Syrian opposition together, de Mistura, has made some considerable changes in the composition of participants, which includes representatives from the rebel factions from both the south and north of Syria and a delegation from Damascus, likely led by al-Assad’s UN ambassador Bashar Al-Jaafari.

The High Negotiations Committee (HNC), an umbrella body which was created to represent the Syrian opposition in the Geneva peace talks in 2016, announced the final list of delegation members which includes representatives from the HNC, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces from different armed groups of the Free Syrian Army, the delegates of Kurds and Turkmen, the representatives of Moscow and Cairo opposition platforms, as well as independent opposition figures.

Apart from the groups considered terrorists by the UN (including IS and Tahrir al-Sham), Geneva will also exclude the Syrian Kurdish faction in the region known as Rojava.

Stefan summed up his mood as “determined” and confirmed that the focus of the meeting will be on a new constitution in Syria, free and fair elections administered under supervision of the United Nations, and transparent and accountable governance and a “political transition”.

The head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition said “We are fully committed to the Geneva talks and prepared to discuss a political solution and transition, Anas al-Abdah, [But] we cannot address the profound security threats … while Assad remains in power.”

According to the HNC said, Bashar al-Assad regime is sending a “bloody” message ahead of the Geneva talks by intensifying attacks against the opposition-controlled areas and is attempting to abort any political resolution to the Syrian conflict.

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