Syrian opposition meets U.N. envoy, demands action on humanitarian issues

A Saudi-backed Syrian opposition delegation met the U.N.'s special envoy Staffan de Mistura for the first time on Sunday demanding efforts to improve humanitarian conditions on the ground or they would shun political negotiations.

"We only came to Geneva after receiving assurances and commitments and we have precise commitments on the fact there would be serious progress on the humanitarian situation," Bassma Kodmani, who is part of the opposition negotiating delegation, told a news conference.

"We can't start political negotiations until we have those gestures (in place)."

The delegation representing the High Negotiations Committee is seeking a halt to attacks on civilian areas, the release of detainees and a lifting of blockades.

The measures were mentioned in a Security Council resolution approved last month that endorsed the peace process for Syria.

Kodmani said assurances had been given to them by de Mistura, U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

She said that since impetus for the talks had started, however, Syrian government forces and ally Russia seemed "deaf" to those demands, with military action increasing.

Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the HNT, said they were ready to move 10 steps if the government delegation moved just one, but that he believed there was little intention by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to make concessions.

"The regime did not come to find a solution, but buy more time to kill more Syrian people," he said.

Farah Atassi, another opposition member, said it was too early to say how long the delegation would remain in Geneva.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Last update: Sun, 31/01/2016 - 14:39
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