Syrian opposition: end sieges and airstrikes before negotiations

Syrian opposition: end sieges and airstrikes before negotiations
The Syrian opposition delegation to Geneva on Sunday demanded immediate lifting of sieges, suspension of air strikes and release of female prisoners before taking part in peace talks.
2 min read
31 January, 2016
HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet holds a press conference during Syria peace talks in Geneva [Getty]
The Syrian opposition delegation will not participate in any peace talks if no progress is made on the humanitarian front, said the spokesman for the Higher Negotiations Committee [HNC] on Sunday.

Saturday saw 16 more people die in the besieged town of Madaya and at least more 10 killed by Russian airstrikes in the eastern Syrian province of  Deir az-Zour.

The opposition delegation demands the lifting of siege imposed on rebel-held areas and an immediate end to Russian and Syrian bombardment, the HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet affirmed at a press conference.

"The Syrian opposition will not proceed with the talks until food is delivered to the besieged Syrian towns, where civilians are being starved to death," Meslet said. 

"The opposition demands the release of all women imprisoned by the Syrian regime before the start of any peace talks," he added.

A list naming 177 Syrian woman prisoners, including activists, was submitted by Farah Atassi, member of the HNC.

The presence of foreign forces in Syria was also criticised.

Syrians are not just fighting the regime, but also foreign powers such as Russia and Iran, Meslet said.

"Russia has fought everything in Syria except the terrorists," he added.

Syrian regime delegation

Meanwhile, the head of the Syrian government delegation accused the Syrian opposition of trying to derail the peace talks with preconditions.

"[We] will not accept any preconditions," Bashar Jaafari told reporters in Geneva on Sunday, two days after the meetings got off to a shaky start.

The opposition's threats to pull out of talks "does not show any form of seriousness," Jaafari added.

Read Also: War criminal among Syrian regime delegation to Geneva

President Bashar Assad's government will "never accept" the removal of two militant groups from a list of terrorist organisations barred from peace talk, a Syrian official said. 

Ahrar al-Sham and the Army of Islam, two Islamic groups fighting to overthrow Assad, agreed to take part in the UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva.

But the Syrian government and its close ally Russia view both as terrorist groups that should be excluded from the process, along with the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda's local affiliate.

Information Minister Omar al-Zoubi's comments to state TV late Saturday came as the main opposition delegation arrived in Geneva.

The delegation has named Army of Islam official Mohammed Alloush as its chief negotiator.

Most parties agree that IS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front should be excluded.