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Syrian Opposition Aims for Assad’s Removal in Geneva Talks

Syria’s main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) head Nasr al-Hariri attends a press conference on the eve of a new round of peace talks on November 27, 2017 in Geneva. (Getty)

The Syrian opposition delegation at peace talks in Geneva is aiming for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad and plans to engage his negotiators in serious and direct talks, the head of the opposition delegation Nasr Hariri said on Monday.

Hariri called for major powers, especially Russia, to pressure the Assad government into real negotiations on a political transition followed by a new constitution and free elections, in line with a U.N. roadmap to end the six-year war.

“We stress that political transition which achieves the ousting of Assad at the beginning is our goal,” Hariri told a news conference after arriving in Geneva for a round of U.N.-led talks that is scheduled to start on Tuesday.

“Our goal in the negotiation will be the departure of Bashar al-Assad from the beginning of the transition,” he said.

A breakthrough in U.N.-backed Syria peace talks in Geneva this week seems hardly more likely than in seven failed earlier rounds as Assad pushes for total military victory and his opponents stick by their demand he leave power.

All previous diplomatic initiatives have swiftly collapsed over the opposition demand that Assad must go and his refusal to do so.

A Syrian government delegation will arrive in Geneva on Wednesday, a day later than expected, Syrian state news agency SANA said.

The delegation had delayed its planned departure for the talks, because of the opposition’s insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has received assurances that the Syrian government delegation will attend the talks, U.N. spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told a Geneva news briefing.

“At least we know that they are coming,” she said, declining to give details on who transmitted the message from Damascus.

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