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No single faction can represent all opposition groups: Syria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Bashar Ja'afari, Syria’s ambassador to the UN, gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, March 16, 2016. ©AFP

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations says no opposition faction can monopolize representation of the entire opposition in the ongoing indirect peace talks with the Damascus government.

Bashar Ja'afari, who also heads the Syrian government delegation at the negotiations, made the remarks during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

Ja'afari rejected the possibility of getting involved in direct dialog with the foreign-backed opposition, adding that no party can claim to be the only representative of the opposition groups as some of the opposition delegations have not yet arrived in the Swiss city.

The chief negotiator of the “Riyadh opposition” delegation is a member of a terrorist group, he said in reference to Salim al-Muslat, the head of the Saudi-backed opposition coalition, called the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which claims to be representing the entire Syrian opposition.

Muslat had earlier said the HNC supports direct negotiations with Damascus, but it is up to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to decide on the issue.

The UN-brokered peace talks, aimed at resolving the five-year crisis in Syria, resumed in Geneva on March 14.

The first round of the discussions was halted on February 3 after the opposition refused to continue the talks.

‘No federal model for Syria’

The Syrian diplomat dismissed plans by Syria's Kurds to declare a federal region in the country’s north, saying "betting on creating any kind of divisions among the Syrians will be a total failure."

He also emphasized that the Geneva talks are meant to discuss the unity of Syria and how to preserve its territorial integrity.

The remarks came after Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, also known as the PYD, said his party is planning to declare a federal region in northern Syria.

‘Russia’s Syria drawdown no surprise’

In another part of his remarks, the Syrian envoy said Russia's announcement that it was pulling out its troops from Syria was not a surprise to Damascus.

"The Russian decision to withdraw partially from Syria was taken jointly by a common decision, taken both by President Putin and President Assad. So it wasn't a surprise for us."

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 jet is seen on a runway shortly before taking off as part of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria at Hmeymim airbase, on March 16, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

On March 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the bulk of Syria-based Russian military forces to withdraw from the country. The pullout process started the next day.

Putin’s order came hours after the resumption of the peace talks.

Syria has been grappling with foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. More than 470,000 people have been killed in the past five years of turmoil in Syria, according to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research.

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