Paris – Procedural issues overshadowed the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva on Friday, ahead of expected first-time direct negotiations between the regime and opposition delegations – a move seen as the fruit of hard efforts deployed by U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.
Syrian opposition delegates have for the first time called for face-to face talks with regime representatives ahead of the fourth round of negotiations, which kicked off earlier this week in the Swiss city.
Previous negotiations have been conducted through a mediator in separate rooms.
High Negotiations Committee spokesman Salem al-Muslet said he did not want this round to be like the one a year ago, which was fruitless.
“We want to see real seriousness on the negotiations table, this is why we demand direct negotiations to save time because every day costs us and the Syrians more souls, famine and sieges,” western news agencies quoted al-Muslet as saying.
The international envoy announced that he would meet with the delegations of the Cairo and Moscow platforms on Saturday.
He added, however, that he did not expect any “special announcement” to be made over the weekend.
Sources from de Mistura’s office told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the envoy has set March 6 as the deadline for the fourth round of negotiations.
Earlier on Friday, de Mistura met with the Damascus delegation and the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) delegation to discuss the format and the work plan for the intra-Syria talks.
The HNC delegation is headed by the secretary general of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, Nasr al-Hariri.
Hariri described his meeting with the U.N. envoy as “positive”, adding that the latter has submitted fresh proposals and ideas to “seriously engage in the political transition process.”
However, Hariri was quick to clarify, saying: “Until now, we don’t have any specific steps, but we have held discussions and arrangements for the coming days of negotiations, which are aimed at achieving a fair political solution.”
He added that a paper he received from de Mistura “tackles procedural matters and some of the thoughts he submitted to launch the political process.”
Earlier in the day, de Mistura met with the Damascus delegation to discuss the format and the work plan for the talks.
Head of the delegation Bashar Jaafari said he received a paper from de Mistura which he would consider and discuss with the special envoy later.