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Extensive Efforts to Solve ‘Geneva 4’ Knots | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A man inspects the damage at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held besieged Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Geneva – Diplomatic sources in Geneva told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday that representatives from the so-called Syria Support Group would first hold an intra-meeting before sitting with U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura in an effort to solve the knots blocking the upcoming negotiations.

On Tuesday, extensive efforts were exerted by several parties in the Swiss city to prepare for the official launch of the fourth round of Syria peace talks expected to kick off on Thursday at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva.

The two U.N. committees tasked to discuss the ceasefire in Syria and the delivery of humanitarian aid, will also hold two exceptional meetings on Wednesday to “prepare the best ground” for the launch of “healthy” talks.

However, two issues, one procedural and the other linked to the nature of the work, still need some clarifications.

Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the main difference between this fourth round of talks and its previous ones is de Mistura’s hope to hold face-to-face meetings between representatives from the Syrian regime and opposition factions, rather than through a mediator.

Asharq Al-Awsat also learned that Russians were also pushing for direct talks between the attending delegations similar to what happened in the first round of the “Astana” meeting.

Concerning the knot related to the presence of different opposition delegations, western sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that de Mistura and his team were capable of solving the issue.

The U.N. envoy will refer to “participants,” when mentioning representatives of the Moscow and Cairo platform, while he would use the term “opposition delegation” when referring to the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) representatives.

Michael Contet, chief of staff to de Mistura, told a regular U.N. briefing that the U.N. envoy was putting the final touches to arrangements for the talks.

“The invitations as well as the substantive agenda for the negotiations are all based on the wide scope of Security Council resolutions, in particular (U.N. Security Council Resolution) 2254, which is our main guidance in this process,” he said.

Concerning the issue of Kurds, it is now certain that neither the Kurdistan Democratic Party nor its linked Syrian Democratic Forces or People’s Protection Units would be at the negotiation table in Geneva. Sources from the Syrian opposition said Kurds would be represented in the HNC delegation.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Ramadan, a spokesman for the opposition National Coalition, insisted to AFP that “the main issue in this round will be the political transition.”

“The opposition delegation will focus on a proposition to form a transitional governance body,” he said, adding that it would “present a complete plan on the topic including how it will be executed based on international resolutions.”

At the battlefield, sources from the armed Syrian opposition said the group froze an arm shipment that was expected to reach opposition fighters in the northwest of Syria in coordination with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), after being attacked by hardliners last month.

Officials at the Syrian opposition said the main target behind freezing the shipment is to prevent the arms and money offered to the armed opposition from falling in the hands of hardliners.

The officials expect the arms aid would only be temporarily stopped.