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Syrian Opposition Negotiator Quits with Peace Talks Stalling | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Mohammad Alloush of the Jaish al Islam faction and member of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) attends a news conference after a meeting with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura during Syria Peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, April 13, 2016.

The chief peace negotiator of Syria’s mainstream opposition in the Geneva peace talks has resigned on Sunday amid no signs of progress in the U.N.- backed peace process that began earlier this year.

Mohammed Alloush said he took this step because the international community is not “serious” about reaching a solution to end the country’s five-year civil war. His statement, released late Sunday, also said that Syrian government forces continue attacking the opposition and besieging rebel-held areas, despite the three rounds of negotiations in Geneva.

Without any of the opposition demands met, peace talks were a “waste of time,” he said adding that he did not expect peace talks to resume so long as the Syrian government remained intransigent and not ready to enter “serious negotiations”.

Alloush, who is also the representative of the powerful Jaish al Islam rebel faction in the Saudi-based High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said that the peace talks had also failed to secure the release of thousands of detainees or to push Syria towards a political transition without President Bashar al Assad.

As evidence of the talks’ failure, Alloush said that the United Nations has not been able to set up a transitional governing body for Syria or find a political solution to the crisis.

The “proximity” talks that began in January have failed to make any progress amid contrary demands by the opposition team and the government delegation.

The Syrian opposition has repeatedly prioritized the political transition in the talks, while the government says fighting terrorism should be the priority The U.N.-backed parties have not set a date for the resumption of the peace talks after the HNC suspended their participation until the situation on the ground has radically changed.

The opposition has been insisting that the President Bashar Assad and top official in his government have no role in Syria’s future — or even during the transitional period.

Alloush said he submitted his resignation to the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee and described his move as a “protest against the international community,” which he hoped would come to realize “the importance of the Syrian blood that is being shed by the (Damascus) regime and its allies.”

The Syrian government does not recognize the right of the HNC to speak on behalf of the opposition and insists they were tools of foreign powers seeking to topple Assad and brand Alloush himself as a “terrorist”.

The resignation was accepted in a meeting in the Saudi-capital Riyadh headed by HNC’s chief coordinator Riad Hijab that sought to assess the peace negotiations.

Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told The Associated Press in Geneva that the resignation is an “internal matter for the HNC.”

“We look forward to continuing our work with all sides to ensure that the process moves forward,” she said.

Meanwhile, opposition activists reported intense government airstrikes in the northern province of Aleppo on Monday.

The province has witnessed some of the worst violence over the past months and has also seen clashes lately between rebels and members of the extremist ISIS group, which captured several villages last week before losing two of them again on Sunday.

More than 160,000 civilians have been trapped by the fighting between ISIS and Syrian rebels and the aid group Doctors Without Borders last week evacuated one of the few remaining hospitals from the Aleppo area.

Meanwhile, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said that over the weekend, more than 8,000 people managed to escape villages and displacement camps to the east and south of the rebel-held town of Azaz.

IRC said that before the road became too dangerous, some 6,000 people managed to flee the rebel stronghold of Marea to seek safety in Azaz. It added that more than 1,000 people managed to reach the Kurdish area of Afrin and more than 1,200 people have fled to a makeshift refugee camp on Yazibag mountain.