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Syrian government delegation ‘to attend Geneva talks’

Syrian government representatives will head to Geneva on Sunday to participate in the United Nations (UN)-organized peace talks for Syria, a Foreign Ministry source says.

“The Syrian government delegation will arrive in Geneva on Sunday to take part in the eighth round” of the Geneva talks, Syria’s SANA news agency cited a Foreign Ministry source as saying on Thursday.

The news comes following days of speculation about whether the Syrian government would take part in the negotiations.

On Friday, Bashar al-Ja’afari, Syria’s UN ambassador and chief negotiator, told reporters in Geneva that his team would fly back home and that “Damascus will decide” whether they would return to the Geneva talks, which resumed later on December 5.

Ja’afari said there were “big problems in this round of talks,” pointing to a statement released last month by the opposition insisting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down before any peace deal could be reached.

Representatives of the Syrian opposition take part at peace talks in Geneva, November 30, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Previous rounds of negotiations under the auspices of the UN over the past five years have failed to achieve tangible results, mainly due to the opposition’s insistence that the elected Syrian government cede power.

Meanwhile, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have been organizing a parallel peace process between Syria’s warring parties in Astana, Kazakhstan, since January. While they were launched years after the Geneva process, the talks in Astana have comparably resulted in significant achievements, including ceasefires and de-escalation zones that have reduced the actual fighting in Syria.

Moreover, Russia plans to hold an all-Syrian congress, known as the Syrian National Dialog Congress, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, which would involve drawing up a framework for Syria’s future structure, adopting a new constitution and holding elections under UN supervision.

In a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 20, Assad said he was “ready for dialog with all those who want to come up with a political settlement.”

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