Riad Hijab, chief coordinator of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition, attends a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference in Munich

Syrian opposition not optimistic about Geneva peace talks

The Syrian opposition is not optimistic about upcoming peace talks in Geneva because there is no international will for a political transition, opposition member Riad Hijab told Al Araby Al Jadid television late on Friday.

The Syrian opposition has consistently said that it wants a halt in attacks on civilians and for the Geneva talks to result in a transitional governing body for Syria that does not include President Bashar al-Assad.

“There is no international will, especially from the U.S. side, and I do not expect anything to come of the negotiations,” said Hijab, the coordinator for the Saudi-backed Higher Negotiation Committee (HNC), the main opposition bloc.

The HNC will attend the next round of talks, scheduled to start around April 9 in Geneva, Hijab said, but “I will be clear to our people: we have no optimism concerning the negotiations process.”

Assad has said he thinks the Geneva talks can produce a new Syrian government that includes opposition, independents and loyalists, but has explicitly rejected the idea of a transitional authority.

Russia and the United States disagree on Assad’s future but have jointly pressed the Syrian government and the opposition to attend the indirect peace talks in Geneva, which are being mediated by a United Nations envoy.

“We are not afraid of the U.S.-Russian rapprochement,” Hijab said. “But we fear the secrecy, the lack of clarity and lack of transparency.

“We do not know what has been agreed … what is happening in Syria is a proxy war.”

A fragile “cessation of hostilities” truce has held in Syria for over a month between government forces and their opponents. The truce excludes Islamic State and al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Air and land attacks by Syrian and allied forces continue in parts of Syria where the government says Islamic State and Nusra Front are present.

Syrian government forces with Russian air support took back the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra last weekend from Islamic State militants who captured it last May.

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