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UN Envoy Optimistic About Syrian Peace
International

UN Envoy Optimistic About Syrian Peace

Peace negotiations between Syria’s warring sides will continue, said UN envoy Staffan de Mistura after meeting the Saudi-backed opposition, while stressing that he is optimistic.
De Mistura met with the Riyadh-backed High Negotiations Committee in a Geneva hotel on Sunday, he told reporters, adding that it was a “courtesy call”, RT reported.
“They deserved that we pay attention to their own concerns,” he explained. “I have been explaining what is the [peace] plan and what all meetings are about.”
He told journalists that the HNC would announce “when and how they can be part of this exercise.”
“I am optimistic and determined because it’s an historic occasion not to be missed,” Mistura said.

  Opposition Threatens
However, Mistura’s optimism was overshadowed by HNC’s statement Sunday that the opposition could walk out of the Geneva talks.
The coordinator of the body, Riad Hijab, said in an online statement on Saturday that there would be no justification for the main opposition group to remain part of the peace process if the UN does not put pressure on Damascus to end military actions in militant-held areas. The opposition also accused the Syrian government of hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged areas.
The Syrian government, in turn, said on Sunday that it is considering humanitarian corridors, ceasefires and prisoner releases.
“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,” said Bashar al-Jaafari, head of Syria’s delegation at peace talks in Geneva.
He criticized the opposition for a lack of “seriousness and responsibility,” referring to the delegation’s delayed attendance at Geneva, as well as setting preconditions for the talks.
“We want to implement what was previously agreed on. We don’t want to start from scratch as that would be a waste of time at the expense of the Syrian people’s pains,” he said, SANA reported.
He also branded some of the opposition members as terrorists backed by foreign powers.
“We don’t deal with terrorists,” he said. “There are foreign powers endorsing foreign agendas, aiming at putting political pressure on the Syrian government by using terrorism as a political weapon.”

  Damascus Bombing
As Syria’s government and opposition began gathering in Geneva for the first UN-mediated peace talks in two years, explosions rocked Damascus, killing at least 45 people, Syria’s Interior Ministry reported.
The self-styled Islamic State terrorist group has claimed the attacks.
According to the ministry, “more than 45 people were killed and dozens were injured.” Police say that the death toll is set to rise because “some of those injured are in a critical condition.”
More than 20 militia fighters, who have been fighting alongside government forces in Syria, are among those killed, TASS reported.
According to the television station of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, the attacks took place in the Sayeda Zeinab district, where Syria’s major Shia shrine is located.
A group of militants first detonated a car bomb near a bus stop near the Shiite shrine, Syrian state news agency SANA reported, quoting an Interior Ministry source. When people started gathering at the scene and tried to rescue the victims of the first blast, two suicide bombers blew themselves up nearby.

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