Syrian peace talks begin in Geneva

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On Thursday, peace talks between the Syrian government and its opposition officially began in Geneva, Switzerland. The talks, organized by the United Nations, aim toward a political solution to the Syrian Civil War that has lasted for more than five years.

I ask you to work together. I know it's not going to be easy

—Staffan de Mistura, coordinator for the Syrian peace talks

From file, Staffan de Mistura at related talks last month in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Image: VOA.

The peace conference is being held at the United Nations Office at Geneva. After an opening ceremony which the opposition delegation nearly missed due to internal disagreements, the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura formally announced the start of the first day of talks. The government and opposition delegations sat opposite each other with a UN assembly serving as a mediator.

The two sides, however, failed to directly talk to the other and no negotiations took place on the first day. Staffan de Mistura separately spoke to the opposing representatives. "I ask you to work together. I know it's not going to be easy to end this horrible conflict and lay the foundation for a country at peace with itself, sovereign and unified", he told the assembly.

The Syrian government delegation was led by Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian representative to the UN. He attended several previous Syrian peace talks.

The opposition delegation mainly consisted of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), led by Naser al-Hariri. "Today, the real opposition that represents the Syrian people is the HNC. This delegation and the HNC, extends its hand to any national partner that adopts the will of the Syrian people", he said. The HNC is based in Saudi Arabia. However, two other opposition groups also attended the conference, supported by Russia, which is also a major supporter of the Syrian government.

In addition to the two political delegations, a group of several Syrian women were also in Geneva. Some of them had relatives arrested, abducted, or otherwise missing during the war.

The talks are held on the basis of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, adopted in December 2015, which called for a ceasefire and a political transition in Syria.

This conference takes place nearly a year after the previous round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva collapsed in 2016. "We do know what will happen if we fail once again — more deaths, more suffering, more terrorism, more refugees", said de Mistura.