Geneva: Peace talks to end the war in Syria entered their second week today, with Damascus under UN pressure to meet a looming target date for making concrete proposals on political transition.
United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura says that before negotiations are paused on Thursday he wants the Syrian regime to set down on paper its vision of a new government for leading the country out of five years of brutal conflict.
De Mistura has praised the main opposition High Negotiations Committee for submitting “substantive” ideas on political transition, but noted that through several meetings last week the government side’s focus was limited to procedural issues and broad principles.
The UN envoy met with the government on Monday, before talks with the HNC on Tuesday.
The opposition contingent in Geneva has expanded with the arrival of HNC leader Riad Hijab, a former prime minister under President Bashar al-Assad who defected from his post in 2012.
Assad’s fate is the toughest issue facing the talks. The HNC has insisted the president’s departure be part of any peace deal, with the regime describing such demands as “a red line.”
Through the weekend, when no formal meetings were held in Geneva, the regime blasted de Mistura for taking sides, while claiming negotiations had achieved nothing since resuming on March 14.
HNC member Yahya Kodmani on Sunday charged the government with being “obstinate” and “refusing any serious discussion” about the central question of Assad’s future.