Negotiators for Syrian opposition to meet with Russian envoy at Geneva

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
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Syria's main opposition group plans to meet with Russian envoys at Geneva later on Monday to discuss promises it says Moscow has not kept, according to a senior negotiator.

After the Russian Air Force helped the Assad regime and allied militias defeat opposition fighters in Aleppo in December, marking the regime's biggest victory in the six-year civil war, Russia has sought to revive diplomatic efforts.

Negotiator Mohammed Alloush spoke to Reuters regarding whether he planned to meet with Russian officials, saying: "The [opposition] High Negotiations Committee (HNC) will be meeting today with the delegation of the Foreign Ministry." Alloush indicated that the opposition sought to discuss "the promises they [Russia] did not keep." The negotiator and member of the Jaish al-Islam rebel group told Reuters, "The Russians did not fulfill a cease-fire agreement despite promises from the highest levels of the Russian delegation," also saying the opposition wanted to discuss the humanitarian situation, insisting that the Geneva talks should focus on a real political transition.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said yesterday that in order to establish peace in Syria, Kurdish representatives should also attend the meetings at Geneva, emphasizing that the Assad regime and negotiators for the Syrian opposition are already present.

According to his statements to the RIA Novosti news agency, Bogdanov said he hopes to see the Syrian opposition as a joint committee.

Turkey strongly opposes the idea of including the PKK terrorist organization's Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) in the Geneva talks.

The PKK is listed as a terror organization by the U.S., Turkey and the EU. Ankara has voiced concerns over U.S. support for the PYD/YPG. Due to their shared ideology, unified leadership and organic organizational links, Ankara has adamantly maintained that both the YPG and the PKK seek to change the demographic structure of the regions seized from Daesh. In addition, Turkish officials have repeatedly stated that any military support provided to the PYD/YPG will eventually be transferred to the PKK, thus posing a threat to Turkey.

The international community agreed on the resumption of political negotiations in Geneva, after Ankara and Moscow brokered a cease-fire on Dec. 30. Although the Assad regime continues to conduct airstrikes in some areas, the cease-fire is still in effect and has reduced the severity of the civil war. The final round of the Geneva peace talks began last Thursday.

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