Last updated: 15 March, 2016

Syria opposition says open to direct talks with regime

Syria's main opposition group told AFP Tuesday that it was ready to negotiate in the same room with the regime, if ongoing peace talks in Geneva make progress.

The current round of negotiations aimed at ending the five-year war are so-called proximity talks, with United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura meeting separately with opposing sides.

“We are ready in the next stage to go in direct negotiations with the regime,” said the spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Salem al-Meslet.

He specified that these potential direct talks would be “like what happened in Geneva Two,” referring to 2014 negotiations during which the two sides were seated in the same room, with the dialogue mediated by then UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.

“It will be a second stage of direct negotiations through the mediation of de Mistura,” Al-Meslet said.

The UN envoy has said that this round of negotiations is expected to last until March 24.

If the current round makes gains, a second round of roughly two weeks of talks would start after a brief recess, when both sides could agree to a new format.

De Mistura met with HNC representatives in Geneva on Tuesday, calling for a moment of silence to mark the fifth anniversary of Syria’s civil war.

The UN envoy met with representatives of President Bashar al-Assad’s government on Monday, the first day of talks.