The Syrian opposition has confirmed it will take part in peace talks scheduled for Monday in Geneva.
The High Negotiations Committee said it would not set any preconditions before the talks, but added that it expected this round of negotiations would focus on creating a transitional governing body that did not include Syria’s president,Bashar al-Assad, and his close coterie.
The HNC said the decision to participate in the Geneva talks demonstrated its “commitment in supporting sincere international efforts aimed at ending the bloodshed in Syria and finding a political solution”.
The announcement on Friday follows days of internal deliberations by the group on whether to take part. A truce meant to pave the way for the negotiations has largely held despite ongoing but sporadic violence in Syria. The large-scale aid deliveries that are meant to be part of the ceasefire deal, which was reached by major powers last month, have yet to materialise.
The Syrian opposition said it would take part in the talks on the basis that the negotiations would lead to a transitional government, preserve Syria’s territorial integrity, restore state institutions and lead to Assad being ousted.
But the prospect of Assad’s departure has grown increasingly unlikely following a major intervention by Russia on the side of the regime, preserving his rule.
The opposition said it would take part in the talks despite repeated violations of the truce by the Syrian government and its allies.
“We are not testing the regime and its allies’ intentions,” said Riad Hijab, the HNC’s general coordinator and a former prime minister who defected. “We are fully aware of the crimes they have committed and of their preparations for further ground and aerial escalation in the period ahead.
“However, our concern for the moment is representing the just cause of the Syrian people internationally, and to take advantage of opportunities to ease the suffering of the Syrian people,.”
The talks will begin a day before the fifth anniversary of the revolution that turned into a civil and proxy war. The conflict has so far claimed more than 400,000 lives, according tosome estimates, and has displaced half the country’s population.