Syria's peace talks crash as opposition group leaves

Syria's peace talks crash as opposition group leaves
UN-brokered peace talks aimed at resolving the world's worst humanitarian crisis in centuries have failed, as the Syrian opposition group exits talks in Switzerland.
2 min read
21 April, 2016

Members of the main Syrian opposition group the High Negotiations Committee said they are walking out of peace talks in Geneva by Friday.

The opposition are ending negotiations due to the regime's ongoing violations of a ceasefire truce, lead Syrian negotiator Mohammad Alloush said. 

He had also demanded that Damascus end its bombardment of residential areas and release prisoners from jail.

"All members of the HNC will be leaving today and tomorrow," the source told Reuters.

"We say to [regime negotiator Bashar] Jaafari if he wants a real national unity government, first he must release the 10,000 women in his prisons, and the tens of thousands more there," Alloush said before leaving the Geneva talks.

He said negotiations could resume if Damascus agreed to these terms "so [Jaadari] can be a human with an ounce of nationalism".

Shaky ceasefire

On Tuesday, the head of the western-backed HNC called on the United Nations to take stern action against those who violate the truce.

A ceasefire came into effect on 27 February and initially saw a significant reduction in violence, but since then heavy fighting has intensified in northern Syria.

The regime has also stepped-up its bombing of rebel-held towns and cities.

But the walkout by the opposition diplomats has left a political solution increasingly distant. It has also emboldened the regime delegation to take a tougher line on any settlement.

Despite the opposition walk-out, the Syrian government's chief representative at the Geneva talks, Bashar al-Jaafari maintain his delegation would continue with the UN-brokered indirect negotiations.

Only opposition members "who reject terrorism (and) who do not work for the sake of a foreign agenda" would be permitted to join a "broad-based unity government", he said.


Though the truce remains standing, Syria has seen escalating violence in recent weeks, particularly in and around Idlib and the battleground northern city of Aleppo.

Members of the HNC told UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura of their intention to suspend their "formal participation" in the talks following the attacks.

Meanwhile international aid groups began the largest delivery of assistance yet in war-torn Syria on Thursday as the peace talks deteriorated.  

The International Committee of the Red Cross said a convoy of 65 trucks filled with food and medication arrived at the besieged rebel-held town of Rastan to deliver the goods.

The delivery was the first to reach the area's 120,000 residents since 2012.

"This is the largest joint humanitarian convoy we have done in Syria so far," ICRC spokesman Pawel Krzysiek confirmed to AFP.

More than four million people live in besieged or hard-to-reach areas with little or no access to food or medicines. More than 250,000 people have died since the conflict began five years ago.