Syrian opposition negotiator quits after peace talks' failure

By Reuters/Suleiman Al-Khalidi   May 29, 2016 | 06:58 pm PT
Syrian opposition negotiator quits after peace talks' failure
Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar al Jaafari (rihgt) and Syrian ambassador Houssam-Eddin Ala attend the opening of the Syrian Peace talks at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Reuters/Denis Balibouse
The chief peace negotiator of Syria's mainstream opposition said on Sunday he was resigning over the failure of the U.N.- backed Geneva peace talks to bring a political settlement and to ease the plight of Syrians living in besieged rebel-held areas.

Mohammed Alloush, who is also the representative of the powerful Jaish al Islam rebel faction in the Saudi-based High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said in a statement sent to Reuters that the peace talks had also failed to secure the release of thousands of detainees or to push Syria towards a political transition without President Bashar al Assad.

The U.N.-backed parties have not set a date for the resumption of the peace talks after the HNC suspended their participation until the situation on the ground has radically changed.

Alloush also said that without any of the opposition demands met, peace talks were a "waste of time", adding that he did not expect peace talks to resume so long as the Syrian government remained intransigent and not ready to enter "serious negotiations".

The Syrian government does not recognize the right of the HNC to speak on behalf of the opposition and insists they were tools of foreign powers seeking to topple Assad and brand Alloush himself as a "terrorist".

The resignation was accepted in a meeting in the Saudi-capital Riyadh headed by HNC's chief coordinator Riad Hijab that sought to assess the peace negotiations.

Separately, the Turkish based Syrian opposition affiliated to the HNC called on foreign backers to step up military support for the moderate Free Syria Army (FSA) rebel groups.

They said such backing would allow their fighters to wrest back the mainly Arab inhabited city of Raqqa, the defacto capital of Islamic State militants in Syria.

The opposition criticized the arming and training of the U.S. backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), whose main component are the Kurdish YPG militia for pursuing a separatist agenda.

With the help of U.S. special forces, they launched last week with allied Arab tribal groups an assault north of the city of Raqqa with the aim of capturing it. They had gained a string of villages around Ain Issa, a town about 60 km north west of Raqqa city.

Head of the main Syrian opposition delegation Asaad al-Zoubi also told al Hadath TV channel that he too wanted to be relieved of his post in the HNC but did not confirm he had taken a similar step.

A source in the opposition said Zoubi was replaced in a reshuffle of the HNC negotiating team that includes both military factions and political groupings.

Zoubi said no real peace talks had taken place four months since the latest rounds of Geneva peace talks were launched and opposition pleas to get the U.N.-backed process to pressure the Syrian authorities to allow humanitarian aid to besieged areas went unheeded.

The Syrian opposition suspended in April its formal participation in peace talks in protest at Syrian army offensives they said meant a ceasefire was effectively over. They were however under strong pressure not to quit altogether. 

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