The union of armed Syrian rebel groups opposing President Bashar al-Assad announced Friday it would attend peace talks in Geneva next week. The delegation, called the High Negotiations Committee, announced it hoped to build on a two-week truce in Syria by participating in peace talks brokered by the United Nations. The cease-fire, which does not include the Islamic State or the al-Nusra Front, has eased tensions and allowed delivery of some humanitarian aid in areas of Syria under attack by the Syrian government.
“It’s important to see the humanitarian aid. There is something positive here. The truce was there. It helped, not much but at least in some areas, and it saved a few people from shelling and airstrikes, and I believe we can do better for our people in Syria to see an end to all this,” said High Negotiations Committee spokesman Salem al-Meslet. The truce began Feb. 27 and it has mostly held.
It is “generally being observed, but of course there are violations and we expected that there would be. But the regime is being observed,” noted Alexei Borodavkin, Russian U.N. Envoy in Geneva in an interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. It was unclear if Syrian government representatives will attend. Attempts at peace talks failed two years ago, with the government eager to discuss means to fight the Islamic State, and opposition groups seeking talks on Bashar’s removal and plans for a transitional government. Another attempt was canceled in early February, when U.N. envoy Staffan di Mistura, presiding over the talks, urged international parties in the conflict, including the United States and Russia, to do more preparatory work.
The next round is scheduled to begin Monday, the fifth anniversary of an uprising against the Bashar regime which has devolved into a civil war claiming 250,000 lives thus far.