Brussels attacks show Syria peace talks 'vital': opposition

22nd March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Tuesday's deadly attacks in Brussels show the importance of ongoing Syrian peace talks in Geneva in reining in the growing extremist threat, Syria's main opposition said.

"These attacks show once again the terrorist insanity enflaming the Middle East and also hitting at the heart of Europe," said Bassma Kodmani, a spokeswoman for the opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC).

Following the coordinated attacks in the Belgian capital, which killed about 35 people, Kodmani insisted that support for the UN-brokered Syrian peace talks was "more vital than ever".

"The Geneva process is today fundamental to reestablishing the global political order and avoiding the chaos that fanatics are threatening us with here in Europe and there in the Middle East," she said in a statement.

Another HNC spokesman Salem Al Meslet also urged the world to "stand united to defeat terrorism".

Their comments came as a second week of peace talks in Geneva got under way, with United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura eager to make progress before the negotiations pause on Thursday.

But the talks hit a new impasse on Monday, when the regime's lead negotiator in Geneva, Bashar al-Jaafari once again branded the opposition foreign-backed terrorists and reiterated that any discussion of Assad's fate was "excluded".

However, he said Damascus was committed to the peace process, and that his delegation had "clear instructions from our leadership to engage seriously in these talks".

Assad's fate has been a key obstacle in the latest talks aimed at ending Syria's devastating five-year war, which has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.

- Defining transition -

"The government delegation continues to avoid discussing deadlines and is simply trying to get a rise out of the opposition," Hisham Marwa, who serves as a consultant in the HNC delegation, told AFP Tuesday.

Any talk of leaving Assad in power is "absolutely unacceptable," he said.

"A political transition means creating a new authority... including the powers of the presidency," he said.

But Marwa stressed that the regime position "will not affect our decision to be engaged in a political process, and to show a higher degree of responsibility and patience".

Speaking to reporters on Monday evening, de Mistura said he asked Jaafari how Damascus defined the term political transition.

"He said it was... premature to talk about it. My message was 'premature' means imminent as far as we are concerned," de Mistura said.

While conceding that progress remained slow, de Mistura stressed it was vital that opposing sides reach a basic understanding on how to move to a second round, tentatively scheduled for next month.

"I have been reminding everyone that there is no Plan B," the UN envoy said.

© 2016 AFP

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