The United Nations’ plans to hold negotiations on ending the Syrian war was dealt a new blow on Sunday, as opposition and government delegations traded charges against each other.
The main opposition bloc met with the UN Syria envoy Staffan De Mistura in a hotel in Geneva, not at the UN headquarters in the Swiss city.
Salem al-Meslet, spokesman for the opposition’s High National Committee (HNC), told reporters on Sunday that the bloc would not join the talks before the implementation of their humanitarian demands.
“We wish to see food reaching people who are starving to death, to the women and children. we want women released from regime prisons and the criminal bombardment from Russia to end,” Meslet said.
Bassma Kodmani, an opposition member, told that the opposition delegation agreed to come to Geneva because they had received promises from US Secretary of State John Kerry and a number of European politicians.
Kodmani said the bloc was assured that a move would happen on the humanitarian front in Syria.
“We do not trust the regime but we are waiting for something to happen any minute,” she said.
In a televised address on Sunday, Kerry said there was no military solution to the conflict. He also demanded that the Syrian government would allow aid into besieged towns when residents have been starving.
Kerry said a negotiated settlement would undercut support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
“Success (in Geneva) is not assured. But the US urges all parties to seize this opportunity…,” he said. “The UN has created a framework to bring this war to an end. This opportunity is real and present… We call upon the parties in Geneva to take the first steps and not miss this opportunity that this moments presents.”
Syrian ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari, who is leading the government delegation, said Damascus will not accept preconditions for negotiations.
Jaafari branded the opposition as terrorists backed by foreign powers, but said his government was considering humanitarian moves as demanded by the opposition delegation.
“We don’t deal with terrorists,” Jaafari told reporters in Geneva.
“There are foreign powers endorsing foreign agendas, aiming at making political pressure on the Syrian government by using terrorism as a political weapon.”
Asked if the government was considering moves such creation of humanitarian corridors, ceasefires and prisoner releases, he said: “Absolutely, this is part of the agenda that we agreed upon and that will be one of the very important topics we will discuss among ourselves as Syrian citizens.”
He said, however, that those issues should be discussed as part of the talks, not ahead of them.