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    Moscow Facilitates Direct Syria Talks in Geneva - Cairo Opposition Group

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    The leader of the Cairo Syrian opposition group noted Moscow's role in facilitating direct negotiations between sides at the Geneva talks.

    GENEVA (Sputnik) — Russia's active role in the Syrian settlement, mostly apparent in recent Astana-format talks, has raised chances for direct talks between government and opposition at the new round of Geneva talks, the Cairo opposition group's leader Jihad Makdissi told Sputnik.

    "We [the Cairo platform] have been defending the Russian role that is very important. Now, we are coming here after Astana. So, the Turks and the HNC [High Negotiations Committee] and all these people from armed groups — they are closer to Moscow now. So we are not being criticized [for having views supportive of Russia] any more. What I mean is that Turkey-Russian rapprochement made our position easier, and in general made everyone in the opposition less 'sensitive,' opening new prospects for the talks," Makdissi said.

    He added that the Cairo platform became less sensitive to the issue of direct talks than before.

    "If [UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan] de Mistura wants us to sit with the regime, it's OK, with Moscow platform — obviously OK, too, with whoever. We don't mind direct talks, but this is a question to the HNC. For us, this is why we are here, to talk directly," Makdissi continued, asked about the chances for the direct talks in Geneva.

    Cairo Group Brings Own Constitutional Proposals to Geneva

    The Cairo group has prepared its own constitutional proposals for the country in a form of guidelines, which can be discussed with other participants of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, Makdissi told Sputnik.

    "We have our own proposal, our Cairo paper. It's guidelines. If there will be a working group for constitutional proposals, we have our position on certain items, like the identity of the state, redistribution of power between executive and legislative branches etc. It's about redistributing power of the president," Makdissi said.

    In January, during the first Astana talks on Syria, Russia presented a constitution draft for Syrians' consideration.

    "We told them you cannot re-write constitution outside Syria. But we can brainstorm," Makdissi said, asked whether his group gave any feedback to Russia concerning that constitution draft.

    A schedule and process for drafting a new constitution, the establishment of a credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance, and calling free and fair elections, pursuant to the new constitution, is what the new round of Geneva talks is going to focus on, according to de Mistura’s office.

    Geneva is hosting a new round of intra-Syrian negotiations, mediated by the United Nations.

    The Damascus delegation is traditionally headed by Syria's UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari. Riyadh-backed opposition, the High Negotiations Committee, has changed its team for this round of talks and included in it nine members of the Free Syrian Army and military factions, including Jaysh al-Islam leader Mohammed Alloush. THe HNC delegation's head is Nasr al-Hariri.

    The Moscow and Cairo platforms of Syrian opposition have also arrived separately and will take part in the talks. The so-called Hmeymim opposition platform is not represented.

    The talks officially kick off on Thursday. A plenary session with participation of all groups can take place on the first day.

    Since 2011, Syria has been engulfed in a civil war, with government forces fighting against numerous opposition and terrorist groups, including al-Nusra Front and Daesh, banned in a range of countries, including Russia.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in December that the Syrian government and armed opposition groups had reached an agreement on a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and on readiness to start peace talks.


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    Intra-Syria talks, The Syrian war, Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Moscow-Cairo group of the Syrian opposition, Staffan de Mistura, Jihad Makdissi, Syria, Russia, Geneva
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