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Geneva 4: Preliminary Discussions to Pave Way for Deeper Negotiations | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Staffan de Mistura, U.N. Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, speaks during a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday, March 3, 2016. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

Geneva – U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has set out three key discussion areas as the basis for the ongoing intra-Syrian negotiations, within the framework of a working paper that he handed over to the two warring sides last week.

AFP quoted de Mistura as saying on Sunday that, at the end, “we would have a deeper shared understanding of how we can proceed in future rounds” in discussing each area.

A diplomat and opposition member told Reuters the working paper included an agenda based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254 of 2015 with focus on a new constitution and U.N.-supervised elections that would be discussed in three working groups.

However, the opposition and the pro-regime delegations do not share the same understanding of the roadmap set out in Resolution 2254; while Damascus rejects any negotiations on Bashar al-Assad, opposition forces are calling for a transitional administration that would enjoy full governing authorities.

The international envoy is expecting to receive both sides’ response to the proposed working document, which also includes the issues of maintaining the fragile ceasefire, fighting terrorism and facilitating humanitarian relief.

The working paper, as presented by AFP, was described as preliminary discussions that would pave the way for deeper negotiations on the three key discussion areas.

In the paper, de Mistura offered to establish a reliable, inclusive, non-sectarian transition administration, setting up the calendar for the new constitution, and free and fair elections under the auspices of the U.N.

“It is equally clear that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” the letter added.

In late December last year, Ankara and Moscow brokered a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, which was accepted by both the Syrian regime and the opposition groups.

Meanwhile, High Negotiations Committee (HNC) spokesman Salem al-Muslat told AFP that the Damascus delegation was not seeking the establishment of a transitional administration, but insisting on depicting terrorism as the main priority of the ongoing talks.

“Terrorism is the only word that the regime knows; but the truth is that [the pro-regime delegation] is procrastinating by only mentioning this word and the war against terrorism,” he said.

On Saturday, head of the delegation to the intra-Syrian dialogue Bashar al-Jaafari said that the session held with de Mistura focused on one point only which is prioritizing fighting terrorism.

At a press conference following his talks with the international envoy, Jaafari said terrorist attacks that wreaked havoc in the city of Homs on Saturday were the “main reason that drives us to having the article of fighting terrorism as a priority in our agenda for the Geneva talks.”