Paris, Beirut- Chaos reigned over the Geneva intra-Syrian talks expected to kick off at the U.N. headquarters in the Swiss city next Thursday.
The dispute over bureaucratic procedures is linked to which “delegations” would attend the reconciliation talks alongside representatives from the Syrian regime and the High Negotiations Committee (HNC).
Such “bureaucratic” dilemma constitutes the first difficulty pending the U.N.-sponsored peace talks and could possibly be one of the reasons to postpone the meeting, already delayed from Feb. 8 to Feb. 23.
The talks could also be threatened by other issues: Will the meeting in Geneva be held through a mediator similar to previous ones, or face-to-face, as wished by U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura?
Reports also reveal that the HNC has not yet decided whether to accept that its delegation be treated similar to the two other delegations.
A source at the Syrian opposition told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday that the HNC insisted during the previous rounds to be the official representative of the opposition and that de Mistura deals with the other delegations as “advisors.” The source said the situation is different now.
Earlier this month, the HNC announced the final composition of its 22-member delegation to participate in the upcoming settlement talks.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov heavily criticized the U.N. envoy for not officially inviting the Moscow opposition platform, headed by the leader of Popular Front for Change and Liberation, Qadri Jamil, currently present in the Russian capital. Lavrov said that intra-Syrian talks in Geneva cannot be held without the participation of government and the entire spectrum of the opposition.
In Syria, four Russian soldiers were killed when their car was hit by a radio-controlled bomb, Russian news agencies cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying on Monday.
The ministry said the explosion ripped through a column of Syrian army and Russian military vehicles carrying advisors from an airbase in Tiyas and the city of Homs, the agencies reported.
At the battlefront, members of the ISIS-affiliated Khalid bin Walid Army launched on Monday morning a wide assault in the western Deraa countryside and took new positions in the area, as opposition forces were busy fighting in the city. The Khalid bin Walid Army also targeted opposition factions centers in the Gholan-Jordan-Deraa triangle.
For its part, the Syrian regime continued on Monday evacuating opposition members from areas surrounding their capital.
Buses carrying around 150 fighters and activists with around 2,000 of their family members were seen leaving the town of Sirghaya, near Zabadani in the west Damascus suburbs to the Idlib province.