Syria’s main opposition group met U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura for the first time on Sunday, but the talks ran straight into trouble after Islamic State bombers killed more than 60 people near the country’s holiest Shi’ite shrine.
Representatives of the Saudi-backed Higher Negotiation Committee (HNC), which includes political and militant opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, warned they may yet walk away from the Geneva talks unless the suffering of civilians in the five-year conflict is eased.
The head of the Syrian government delegation retorted that the blasts in Damascus, which the Interior Ministry blamed on a car bomb and two suicide bombers, merely confirmed the link between the opposition and terrorism – even though Islamic State has been excluded from the talks.
The United Nations is aiming for six months of negotiations, first seeking a ceasefire, later working toward a political settlement to the civil war that has also killed over 250,000 people, driven more than 10 million from their homes and drawn in global powers.
Only on Friday, the HNC said it would boycott the process, insisting it wanted an end to air strikes and sieges of Syrian towns before joining the negotiations. This forced de Mistura — who invited the government and opposition umbrella group for “proximity talks”, in which he would meet each side in separate rooms — to set the ball rolling with only the government delegation. Read More