Syria: High Negotiations Committee arrives in Geneva where UN-mediated talks are under way

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura briefs the press on the latest developments in the country. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

31 January 2016 – United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has met with the delegation of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) at their hotel in Geneva following their arrival last night in Geneva, where UN-mediated intra-Syrian talks began Friday after days of delays.

According to Mr. de Mistura's spokesperson, the envoy paid a courtesy visit to the HNC delegation and held a “short informal meeting [that was] useful in addressing issues relating to the intra-Syrian talks.”

Separately, the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, paid a courtesy visit to the hotel of the delegation of the Syrian Government to discuss practical arrangements related to the next steps in the talks, according to the spokesperson. The Government delegation, headed by the Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, held a preparatory meeting with Mr. de Mistura on Friday at the opening of the talks.

Speaking to reporters later that day, the Special Envoy said “the issue is obviously that any type of ceasefire discussions, which is obviously something that we are aiming at, apart from substantive discussions on the future of Syria, need two interlocutors […] that is why for us it is very important to have an indication of where we are on the presence of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC)” responding to questions about discussions among the opposition about attending the Geneva talks.

One of their key concerns he said, included the desire “to see a gesture from the Government authorities regarding some type of improvement for the people in Syria during the talks, for instance release of prisoners, or for instance some lifting of sieges.”

Mr. de Mistura has said the Geneva meetings will start with proximity talks and are expected to last for six months, with Government and opposition delegations sitting in separate rooms and UN officials shuttling between them, with the immediate priorities being a broad ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and halting the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The talks stem from an agreement reached in Vienna in November by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), comprising the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries including the United States and Russia, as part of an effort to end the war with an agreement on new governance, a new constitution and new elections.


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