Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The West-backed Syrian National Coalition is considering expanding its delegation to the Geneva II talks in order to give other anti-government groups a chance to express their views.
The Syrian government said on Friday it would take part in the second round of the talks slated to take place on February 10. The Syrian National Coalition confirmed following the first round of talks that it would attend a second round, but questions remain after the government failed to fully accept the provisions of the Geneva Communiqué.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Nazeer Hakim, a member of the opposition’s Geneva II delegation, confirmed that the Syrian National Coalition is in the process of meeting with the National Coordination Committee (NCC), another anti-government group, in order to discuss the possibility of expanding the opposition’s representation at the peace talks.
The step comes after the Syrian government demanded that other anti-government groups join the opposition delegation in order to ensure that the talks “come up with the correct results.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, head of the Paris-based NCC Haytham Manna said the two sides are discussing the possibility of holding “a consultative meeting among all opposition sides” prior to the next round of peace talks.
According to Manna, the aim of the consultative meeting is to “agree on the agenda and structure of the opposition delegation taking part in the second round of Geneva II talks.”
“We have sent a letter to the sponsors of the [Geneva II] conference, Moscow, Washington and the UN, asking them to delay Monday’s session until March in order for the talks among opposition sides to conclude,” he added.
Despite confirming that it will attend the talks, the Syrian government demanded an “article-by-article” discussion of the Geneva Communiqué, the document the UN and the Syrian sides had previously agreed would serve as the basis for the current round of peace talks.
Hakim dismissed the government’s demand as an attempt to “buy more time” while it continues to oppress the Syrian people.
“We will start by discussing the article about forming a transitional executive body and if the regime’s delegation refuses to discuss it, it will be international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi’s job to take the right decision,” Hakim said.
On Friday, the Syrian government allowed the evacuation of vulnerable civilians from the city of Homs, ending a months-long siege it had imposed.
“This is the first time the [Syrian] regime admits it has been blockading innocent people for 570 days,” Hakim said, adding that “lifting the siege is the beginning to finding a solution.”
However, Hakim expressed doubts that the government delegation will show “flexibility” in the next round of talks.
“The regime’s negotiators will be determined to gain more time,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.