January 29, 2016 / 6:47 PM / 2 years ago

Syrian opposition will travel to Geneva talks: spokesman

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria’s main opposition body has agreed to travel to Geneva, where peace talks began on Friday, following a phone call from the U.S. Secretary of State and after receiving guarantees that their demands would be met, its spokesman said on Friday.

The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has repeatedly said the Syrian government and its allies must first halt bombing and lift blockades of besieged areas before it will join the talks, which have been delayed by four days, and signalled it would still leave the process if these measures are not implemented.

“Guarantees came that (United Nations) Resolution 2254 would be implemented in full ... so we will go to Geneva to discuss humanitarian issues,” spokesman Salim al-Muslat told the Arabic news channel al-Arabiya al-Hadath on Friday.

“The HNC will go to Geneva tomorrow to discuss these humanitarian issues which will pave the way into the political process of negotiations,” al-Muslat said.

Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar al Jaafari leaves after the first day of the Syrian peace talks at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

After receiving invitations to the talks this week, the Saudi-backed HNC wrote to the U.N. secretary general requesting clarification on the implementation of steps outlined in a December U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the peace process.

These included the lifting of blockades on besieged areas, a halt to attacks on civilian areas, and a release of arbitrarily detained people.

Slideshow (5 Images)

The decision to travel from Riyadh, where the HNC has been meeting to debate their attendance, came after a telephone call with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and after receiving an answer from the U.N. to their letter.

“We have agreed on a certain time period, which I cannot disclose now,” al-Muslat said. “Perhaps the coming days will show a serious approach to this issue. If there is then we will continue. If we don’t see a serious approach then there will be a different decision.”

The Syrian government’s delegation arrived on Friday at the talks that U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura hopes to convene in an indirect format with the aim of ending the five-year-old war that has killed 250,000 people.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Additional reporting by Ali Abdelaty in Cairo; Editing by Louise Ireland

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