Syrian opposition says government must implement goodwill measures within days

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Syrian opposition official said on Monday the government must within a few days state its readiness to implement goodwill measures on the ground, accusing the U.N. peace envoy of overstepping the mark by declaring the start of peace talks.

The Syrian opposition has travelled to Geneva, where peace talks to end the country’s five year old conflict began on Friday, but has repeatedly said it will not enter negotiations without humanitarian measures, such as the lifting of sieges, being implemented first.

Monzer Makhous, an official from the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee, told Arabic news channel Al Arabiya: “The Syrian regime must state directly, frankly and without ambiguity that it is ready to implement (United Nations) Articles 12 and 13 immediately, and it must not take more than a few days.”

“If not, the High Negotiations Committee will not take part in any other process,” Monzer said.

“We told (U.N. envoy Staffan De Mistura) clearly that he must not interpret any interaction with him as being the start of the negotiations process,” he said.

Separately, Monzer told Reuters Television: “We are here for a few days. Just to be clear, only a few days. If there (is) no progress on the ground, we are leaving ... We are not here for negotiations, we are here to test the regime’s intentions.”

Reporting by Lisa Barrington in Beirut and Ali Abdelaty in Cairo; Editing by Mark Heinrich