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Syrian Opposition Hopes for Progress in Peace Talks Agenda - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, speaks about the International Syria support group's humanitarian access task force update at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, speaks about the International Syria support group’s humanitarian access task force update at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

The main Syrian opposition council said on Wednesday the agenda proposed by the United Nations for peace talks was positive and it had noted fewer government violations of a cessation of hostilities agreement in the past day.

Salem al-Muslat, spokesman for the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), would take its final decision on whether to attend the Geneva talks very soon.

Special U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said Wednesday he is hoping the warring sides will make progress within 10 days after peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition resume next week in Geneva.

“We believe that having a timetable and a time limit is healthy for everyone, so we don’t think that we can go on procedural discussions for two weeks hoping to get into substance — we go seriously into substance as soon as we can,” de Mistura told reporters in Geneva.

De Mistura said the talks would focus on new governance, a constitution and elections, yet Muslat thought it was positive that the talks would “start … with discussion of the matter of political transition”.

“We heard what Mr. de Mistura said. There are positive points, there are matters on the ground that we notice are moving in a positive way,” he said.

He said aid was entering more areas, describing that development as “positive … if not complete”.

The resumption of the talks has been anticipated ever since a U.S.-Russia-brokered ‘cessation of hostilities’ agreement, which has sharply reduced bloodshed in the five-year war, took effect on Feb. 27. The truce — though limited and tentative — has mostly held, even as sporadic violence has continued.

“The violations of the truce were great at the start, but yesterday they were much fewer. There are perhaps some positive matters that we are seeing,” Muslat added.

But he said a government blockade of the Damascus suburb of Daraya must be lifted in order to “pave the way to the start of negotiations”. He added this was not a condition for the attending the talks but a humanitarian requirement.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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