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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Syrian Geneva peace talks are expected to resume on Monday

Syrian peace talks held in Geneva
(Image: Haaretz)
Peace talks aimed at stopping the five year civil war in Syria that are expected to resume on Monday, 14 March, in Geneva, Switzerland, after the previous peace negotiations held in Vienna last year failed.

US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the talks are more likely to be held on Monday despite several violations of the ceasefire by the sides, both Syrian government forces and rebels as well.

The ceasefire agreement was reached between the Syrian government and the representatives of the Syrian opposition and rebel forces at the end of February in Geneva, as the talks were mediated by US, Russia and UN. According to the latest ceasefire agreement the sides halt the hostilities and fighting starting from 27 February. The agreement did not apply to the terrorist groups including ISIS and Al-Nusra Front, as the fighting against these groups continues in different regions of the country.

HNC representatives claim they expect that the peace talks will concentrate on the establishment of an interim government in Syria with the full executive powers, whereas Syrian long-standing President Bashar Al-Asad should be removed from power. In addition to that Syrian opposition representatives accused Syrian government forces in preparing the air and ground offensive to be launched in various regions of the country on the eve of the talks in order to escalate the situation and strengthen its negotiating positions, according to the statement of the HNC spokesperson Salim Al-Muslat.
UN Syrian envoy Staffan De Mistura during the Syrian peace
talks in Geneva
(Image: Al-Jazeera)

Representatives of Syrian Asad's government, in their turn, declared that they will also participate in the Geneva peace talks to be held on Monday and that they expect to arrive in Switzerland on Sunday and will be waiting for the opposition to arrive during 24 hours. In case if the HNC delegates won't arrive and take part in the talks, the government's delegation will leave for Syria, according to the statements.

Syrian Foreign Minister of Asad's government Walid Muallem said in his latest statement that the negotiations should be aimed at forming the "unity government" which would later appoint a committee to whether write a new Constitution or to amend the existing one. This matter in its turn has to be decided by the people of Syria during the referendum. Walid Muallem also strongly opposed any possibility of federal division of the country.

In addition to that, Syrian pro-government delegation will not discuss the possibility of the ouster of Bashar Al-Asad from power, added Mr. Muallem, as this issue is "the red line", referring to the demands of the HNC that Asad has to step down prior to the beginning of the transitional period in the country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry
(Image: Business Insider)
UN special envoy responsible for the Syrian issue and the peace talks Staffan De Mistura in his turn declared that the upcoming talks will focus on the future arrangements in Syria, a new Constitution and organizing of the presidential and parliamentary elections and further transition of power.

US Secretary of State John Kerry stated on Saturday during his official visit to Saudi Arabia that Syrian peace talks to be held in Geneva on Monday have to include all the sides, including the government-forces, opposition and the international mediators as well, and that the UN brokered negotiations should go ahead despite several violations of the ceasefire committed both by the government and rebel forces.

During the official talk with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir Mr. Kerry also added that American and Russian monitors were expected to meet in Amman, Jordan, and in Geneva, Switzerland, ahead of the Monday peace talks round in order to try to further reduce violence in Syria. In addition to that Mr. Kerry also said that he planned to request a call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

John Kerry also stated that US delegation also will meet with the foreign ministers of the six-members Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) regarding the issues of the region in the next few weeks.

Distribution of forces in Syria
(Image: Al-Jazeera)
Meanwhile, situation in Syria remains tense, as the fighting continues in different regions of the country despite the recently declared truce. The truce agreement does not apply to the jihadist groups ISIS and Al-Nusra, thus, the government forces backed by Russian aviation continue their assaults against the terrorist groups. Syrian government forces supported by Russia have attempted to regain control of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria on Wednesday and Thursday this week and to restore control of the important area and supply routes as well. 

The city of Palmyra is currently under the control of ISIS. Russian and pro-government forces have launched massive airstrikes against the ISIS positions in the city, but the jihadist group still controls the city, although it loses control over many its previous territories in Syria and Iraq as well.