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Syria opposition says regime rejecting talks

Calls for halt to bombing campaign that has escalated in recent weeks against eastern Ghouta

Gulf News

Beirut: The leader of the Syrian opposition is challenging the United Nations, its Syria envoy and the world community to acknowledge that President Bashar Al Assad’s regime is “rejecting” peace negotiations in Geneva.

Nasser Hariri spoke to reporters after meeting with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura as the UN-mediated peace talks resumed after a weekend pause, but with the government delegation a no-show.

Hariri said the newly expanded opposition was committed to implementing UN Security Council resolutions that call for political transition, among other things.

Hariri said: “True negotiation is between two parties.”

“So now, it is the responsibility of the international community, it is the responsibility of the United Nations and the special envoy, to announce to the world who is the party who is rejecting the negotiation.”

A spokesman for the Syrian opposition’s delegation to peace talks said it remains committed to a political transition in which Al Assad would have no role, a position the government has always rejected.

The head of the regime delegation has called the opposition communique to the talks, in which they state that their goal is to see a transition period take effect without Al Assad, “irresponsible.”

Opposition spokesman Yahya Aridi meanwhile called on the United Nations and allies of Al Assad to halt a bombing campaign that has escalated in recent weeks against eastern Ghouta, a besieged rebel-held suburb near Damascus. Aridi said children in Ghouta are dying and have no access to medical care amid an intense bombing campaign that began last month.

UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said the eighth round of peace talks under de Mistura was set to restart on Tuesday after a weekend break.

Syria’s ambassador to Geneva, Hussam Edin Aala, told The Associated Press that Damascus was “studying” the UN invitation.