Damascus: HNC to Blame if Talks in Geneva Fail

Syrian government negotiator Bashar Jaafari told reporters that he had discussed “substantive issues, particularly counter-terrorism” with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura, and would continue on 3 March.

The government delegation has sought to focus peace talks around counter-terrorism – which is how it frames the battle with all its armed opponents – while the opposition wants to discuss political transition, which it says must mean President Bashar Assad giving up power.

Jaafari said the opposition High Negotiations Committee was holding the peace talks hostage, and accused some of its members of “high treason” by receiving support from Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey.

“Progress of Geneva talks must not be hostage to the position of Riyadh platform…. It prevented forming of unified delegation. Riyadh delegation will be responsible for any failure of Geneva talks,” Jaafari told reporters.

Russia is seen as holding the balance of power in Syria and as being the powerbroker behind the peace talks. On 1 March, it appeared to offer an olive branch to the HNC, enemies of Moscow’s ally Assad, when Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov received the opposition leadership at Russia’s mission in Geneva.

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