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Unconditional ‘Geneva 4’ Talks on Syria | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Men run at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held besieged Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh/File Photo

Geneva, Tel Aviv- U.N. special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura issued a warning ahead of the fourth round of intra-Syrian peace talks expected in Geneva on Thursday by saying some parties could disrupt the meeting and provoke one side or the other to walk out.

“There are spoilers, we have seen it all the time during the last talks and perhaps they may even be attempting or tempted to [do] something before or during the talks to provoke one side or the other to walk out,” de Mistura said on Wednesday.

On the eve of the intra-Syrian talks, which had been stopped for nine months, the three opposition delegations plus the regime delegation arrived to the Swiss city amid fears they would be unable to achieve any serious breakthrough in the Syrian crisis.

On Wednesday, de Mistura told a press conference in Geneva he would be continuing to push for negotiations even if the ceasefire is not respected.

“We will be very reluctant to engage in pre-conditions, and in fact I will be refusing them,” he said.

De Mistura said Russia, which has supported head of the regime Bashar Assad’s military advances, had asked the Syrian government to “silence their own skies in the areas touched by the ceasefire” during the talks.

He added: “We have been requesting those who have the influence on the opposition to try themselves also to do the same.”

European sources and opposition officials told Asharq Al-Awsat that preparatory meetings were held in Geneva on Wednesday to coordinate the positions expected to be announced the next day.

A meeting was held between U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Syria Michael Ratney and the High Negotiations Committee delegation, while other meetings occurred with representatives of the states supporting the Syrian opposition.

The sources said western officials advised the opposition delegations not to withdraw from the meeings, similar to what they have done last April. “The best gift we can offer to Bashar Assad is our withdrawal from the talks and therefore, give the Iranians an excuse to escalate the military operations,” a member of the opposition told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Separately, while reports said Israeli jets pounded targets near the Syrian capital overnight Wednesday, Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot reassured Israelis that there is no willingness by the enemies both on the northern front and in Gaza to initiate a military campaign against Israel.

On Wednesday media reports said Israel targeted a weapons shipment to Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” in the Katif suburbs of the capital.