Syrian opposition prepared to talk with Assad's negotiators despite demands for him to quit

The Syrian civil war is now in its seventh year with no immediate resolution in sight

Nasr al-Hariri, Head of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC), attends a news conference before the opening of Intra Syria talks in Geneva, Switzerland November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
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The head of the Syrian opposition delegation has called for the removal of Bashar Al Assad but plans to have serious negotiations with his delegates at UN peace talks in Geneva.

“We are here to negotiate and implement Syrian president Bashar Al Assad’s departure, we cannot have a political transition without his removal,” Nasr Al Hariri said after arriving in Geneva for a fresh round of UN led talks scheduled to start on Tuesday.

UN sponsored talks have collapsed over the years over the opposition demanding that Mr Al Assad must go and his refusal to do so.

Mr Al Hariri’s comments come as the Syrian government’s delegation failed to arrive in Geneva on Monday when it had been due. It was not clear whether the delegation would arrive on Tuesday.

“While we wait for the regime’s delegation that is prepared for serious negotiations, the regime continues to stall and hinder any progress for a political solution,” Mr Al Hariri said.


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Instead, he confirmed that negotiation will still go ahead on Tuesday afternoon between the opposition and the UN’s peace envoy Staffan de Mistura.

Mr Al Hariri said that the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) came to Geneva with a complete vision of a political solution in Syria that “starts by the departure Mr Al Assad, creating a transitional governing body, drafting a constitution, elections and building a democratic civil state.”

The opposition leader called on the international community to be held accountable for not putting pressure on Mr Al Assad’s regime to enter real negotiations for a political transition in line with a UN roadmap to end the war. “They [the international community] have a legal, political and ethical responsibility- we cannot keep the blood of innocent Syrians at their [regime] hands.”

The opposition has said it is prepared to enter into direct talks with Mr Al Assad’s government without preconditions. The delegation includes groups based in Moscow and Cairo, which take a softer approach on the fate of the Syrian president.

The Syrian civil war, now in its seventh year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“The Syrian government and pro Assad forces continued its bombing and sieges of areas including 400,000 people in eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held Damascus suburb” , Mr Al Hariri said.

"We are here for the hundreds of thousands who are under siege and in grave need of humanitarian aid and for hundreds of thousands of detainees who are at the verge of death, suffering but living death every day," he said.

The new round of talks will take place nearly a week after leaders of Syrian rebel-backer Turkey and regime allies Iran and Russia met in the Russian resort city of Sochi, where they supported a comprehensive dialogue for Syria.

Russian president Vladimir Putin called for a "congress" of Syrian regime and opposition figures, saying this would be a "stimulus" for Geneva.