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Pressure Mounts on Syrian Opposition Delegation to Geneva To Get Real

Nov. 28, 2017 (EIRNS)—The Syrian government delegation reportedly arrived in Geneva today, a day later than anticipated because of reservations about the position paper issued by the opposition after their meeting in Riyadh last weekend, which still calls for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power as a precondition for entering into any political transition. A source in the Syrian Foreign Ministry told the SANA news agency that the government decided to participate following "intensive contacts, held during the past two days between the Syrian and Russian sides."

Alexei Boradovkin, Russia’s representative to the UN in Geneva, told TASS that the opposition delegation needs to be brought down to Earth, because their position won’t lead to a constructive dialogue.

"During the meeting (of representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) Russia turned to its partners at the UN and Western delegations, which have influence on the opposition, so that they try to bring the opposition down to Earth, as their position is not in line with the real situation,"

he said. He found the document adopted by the opposition meeting in Riyadh itself to be contradictory.

"On the one hand, the document says that the opposition is not setting any preconditions, but on the other hand, there is a demand for Bashar al-Assad’s resignation in the very beginning of the transition period. What is that if not a precondition?"

he asked. Further, it’s not even clear how they expect to negotiate with a government they view as "almost as criminals with whom it is impossible to talk."

However, Boradovkin also praised the Syrian government’s decision to participate in the talks after all. "That’s the right decision," he said.

"It’s very good that the Syrian government delegation will come to Geneva, because this will make it possible for Damascus representatives to express their point of view and come up with the relevant assessments."

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, also made clear in an update to the UN Security Council yesterday, that the opposition delegation has to get their position in line with the reality on the ground. During his brief remarks, he stressed not once, but three times that there can be no preconditions by either side. De Mistura expressed the hope that the meetings that took place in the run-up to Geneva, including the Trump-Putin statement issued in Da Nang, Vietnam during the APEC summit, the Putin-Assad meeting in Sochi, last week, followed by the three-way Putin-Rouhani-Erdogan summit, and the opposition meeting in Riyadh that followed, "might help us, I believe, to begin a genuine negotiation process in Geneva." He noted that both Assad and the opposition said they were willing to discuss the issues of a political settlement within the context of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. De Mistura said that he and his team will not accept any preconditions from either party. And, just to make clear what that means, he said a precondition is "when one party says: ‘I will not begin to negotiate with the other side unless they do or say the following.’"