The main opposition group at ongoing UN-backed Syria peace talks in Geneva met Russia’s deputy foreign minister on Wednesday. Speaking after the meeting with Gennady Gatilov, a spokesman for the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Salim al-Muslat, told reporters: “The discussion had two aspects: political and humanitarian. We talked about our concerns to push this process forward.”
“We informed the deputy foreign minister that our delegation is here to engage completely and seriously in the political talks. We have serious steps forward based on the agenda presented by UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura,” Muslat said.
“However, the other party has taken no steps in these regards,” Muslat added, claiming the Bashar al-Assad regime talks team only wanted to discuss terrorism.
“We discussed other humanitarian issues, the cease-fire and the continuing violations by the regime, in addition to the Iranian presence in Syria and forced displacements taking place in several areas in the country,” Muslat went on to say.
Describing the meeting with Gatilov as very positive, Muslat said: “The Russian side has shown their interest in repeating similar meetings in the future to push and support the political process that has taken place in Geneva.”
Early May was identified as a time to hold another round of Kazakhstan-based talks, Muslat said.
“What is taking place on the ground is different to what was agreed in Astana, that is why — unless we see progress on the ground or a different approach on the ground — the defenders of dignity on Syria will decide whether they will participate in the [next] round in Astana or not.
“This will be the real test for guarantors [of the] cease-fire … so we can participate,” he added.
After the meeting, Gatilov told reporters: “l heard from them that the HNC delegation would be in favor of discussing four agenda items presented by de Mistura,” Gatilov said.
This current round of talks began on March 23 and is expected to end on Friday.
The Syrian regime delegation is headed by Bashar al-Ja’aafari, while the main opposition is led by the HNC’s Nasr Hariri.