Syria’s main opposition bloc said it was travelling to Geneva on Saturday to assess the intentions of the government in implementing humanitarian measures that could allow it to join political negotiations. A 17-strong team was expected to arrive in Switzerland late on Saturday, delegates told Al Jazeera.
On Friday, HNC member Farah Atassi said the delegation was coming “not to negotiate” with the government yet, but to talk to UN officials after receiving reassurances from the organisation. Atassi spoke at a Geneva hotel not far from the UN offices where UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura and Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari were meeting. HNC spokesman Monzer Makhous said that the opposition had not changed a previous position that it would not travel to Switzerland if specific conditions for talking politics were not met.
“Yes, we will go to Geneva to be present but we will not attend the talks at all unless the regime fulfils our humanitarian demands, which specify stoppage to bombings and starvation of civilians in besieged areas as a condition,” Makhous said. “Today we received guarantees that these issues will be addressed in addition to political transition of power. We will not accept anything else unless we see these demands met on the ground.”
Mistura said he believed he would be able to meet the HNC on Sunday. The talks are the first since two rounds of negotiations collapsed in 2014. Syria’s conflict has killed more than 250,000 people, displaced millions and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing as refugees to Europe.