Syrian opposition scents progress at Geneva talks

Russia's veto of a USA -backed U.N. Security Council resolution Tuesday that would have imposed sanctions on the Assad regime for its continued use of chemical weapons has further exposed the gulf between opposition and Russian perspectives on the war.

"We all desperately need the engage in this and drive this forward with the Russians".

In Moscow, a foreign ministry source confirmed that deputy Russian foreign minister Gennady Gatilov would meet opposition negotiators along with all sides in Geneva.

"We hope that they come here having something in mind to push the political process here in Geneva, because with this regime, we will reach nowhere unless there is a pressure and the only country that can deliver pressure on the regime is Russia", Muslet told Reuters Television.

A top Syrian opposition negotiator told journalists overnight Wednesday the "envoy is really keen to start a political process on the basis of a clear agenda".

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Russian Federation is seen playing a key role because of its influence with Assad and because it has driven a new diplomatic push since December, when its air force helped defeat rebels in Aleppo, Assad's biggest victory in six years of war.

Trump has said his priority is to fight Islamic State, which has left Russia in the diplomatic driving seat and put Russia, Turkey and Iran in charge of overseeing a shaky cease-fire. The HNC members articulated their own vision of the current round of talks in Geneva. "We need to talk to them, but we risk being accused at any moment of being traitors, especially after what happened at the United Nations today", a member of the opposition delegation said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, said government bombardment of a rebel-held area in Damascus's northeastern outskirts intensified on Wednesday, and fighting between government forces and rebels killed 13 Syrian soldiers. Mohammed Alloush, a delegation member and Jaysh al-Islam militant group leader did not attend the meeting. However, they said it had repeated its long-standing position that counter-terrorism talks should take priority and be part of the negotiations.

Staffan de Mistura is due for another round of meetings Thursday marking a week of bilateral talks with the government delegation and opposition groups.

Resolution 2254 sets out a political transition process including plans for a new constitution, United Nations -supervised elections and transparent and accountable governance.

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Gatilov said he should include terrorism in the talks.

So far the Geneva talks have focused nearly entirely on how to arrange more substantive later rounds, but both sides said on Wednesday they had held "deep" discussions with de Mistura earlier in the day.

The opposition wants to discuss "political transition" and, after hearing from de Mistura said they believed that Russian Federation had persuaded Syria's government negotiators that it should be on the agenda of the talks.

Abu Mohammed al-Golani says in a video message posted Monday that Syrian opposition delegates in Switzerland "were handing victory" to a regime that is not victorious, referring to the government of President Bashar Assad.

"The opposition is flexible and ready to make concessions, but the government must commit to a political transition". Diplomats said the meeting may be uncomfortable for Assad, Moscow's ally, who regards his opponents as terrorists.

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