Syrian opposition says waiting for Damascus government to join Geneva talks

Sergei Lavrov greets UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura in Moscow yesterday

Numerous prior attempts quickly fell apart amid major disagreements between the Syrian government and rebel delegations, including about whether President Bashar al-Assad should remain in office.

United Nations envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said despite some concerns about recent violence, he believes "a moment of truth has arrived" as he prepared to launch a new round of peace talks aimed at ending almost seven years of fighting.

"It no longer has the pretext that the opposition is fragmented". Prior rounds of peace talks have proceeded under similar circumstances with one party arriving a day or two late.

Nasr Hariri, head of the opposition delegation, told a Geneva news conference on Monday night that he is aiming for Assad's removal as a result of negotiations.

Mr Al Hariri confirmed on Monday that the opposition was "united and ready for real talks with the government". "But we will be offering that", he said after meeting the opposition delegation.

De Mistura also stressed that the negotiations should take place in Geneva without any preconditions and focus on the essential principles and the constitutional and election baskets, towards the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2254.

On Monday, Mr de Mistura called for "real" diplomacy as he spoke to a UN Security Council meeting in NY via video link from Geneva.

The Syrian government has accepted a Russian suggestion of a ceasefire in the besieged rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters on Tuesday.

De Mistura's deputy, Ramzi Ezzedine Ramzi, had said in Damascus on November 25 that four baskets would be under discussion in talks staring on Tuesday in Geneva, adding that the focus would be on the second and third baskets, pertaining the elections and constitution.

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