Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov
Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov arrives for a meeting on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Russia Says Syrian Govt Officials Will Attend Geneva Peace Talks

Moscow  –  Syrian government representatives will attend peace talks in Geneva due to begin on Thursday, Russia’s state RIA news agency reported on Monday, citing Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

Bogdanov said Moscow hoped that Syrian armed opposition would be able to attend the peace talks.

Bogdanov also said the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, would visit Moscow ahead of the Geneva talks.

De Mistura is trying to mediate a political agreement between Syria’s warring sides, and after a procedural round of talks in Geneva ended on March 3, he plans to bring the negotiators back for in-depth discussions on Thursday.

NAN reports that on Feb. 23, the UN Thursday launched a new effort at Syrian peace talks in Geneva as mediator Staffan de Mistura met delegates representing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Bashar al-Jaafari, Syria’s UN ambassador, arrived at the Swiss UN offices with a small team, rather than with his full delegation.

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These are the first talks since negotiations broke down in April 2016 amid mounting violence on the ground. So far, there is little optimism for this round of talks.

De Mistura was also scheduled to meet opposition delegates later on Thursday.

The seasoned UN diplomat wants both sides to discuss an inclusive transition government, a new constitution, and elections.

However, de Mistura said Wednesday that he did not expect a breakthrough.

The opposition delegation warned on the eve of the talks that the regime and its ally, Iran, were trying to undermine the peace efforts.

NAN reports that the talks revolved around three sets of issues, which 2254 mandates de Mistura to mediate on: establishment of a credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance; a process for drafting a new constitution; and free and fair elections under UN supervision.

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NAN reports that resolution was unanimously adopted on Dec. 18, 2015.

It calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.

The resolution remains to be the foundation for the Astana Process peace negotiations convened by Turkey, Russia and Iran in Astana, Kazakhstan on Jan. 23 to Jan. 24.

The resolution demands that all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilian targets, it urges all Member States to support efforts to achieve a ceasefire and requests the U.N. to convene the parties to engage in formal negotiations in early January 2016.

Groups seen as “terrorist groups” by the Security Council, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the al-Nusra Front, are excluded.

Offensive and defensive actions against such groups will continue, among others.

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