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Damascus to resume talks with UN envoy on Monday

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)
Syrian government's head of delegation Bashar al-Ja'afari attends a news conference after a meeting on Syria at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, April 22, 2016. (Reuters photo)

Syria's chief negotiator in peace talks plans to resume talks with UN Special Envoy for Syria early next week.

Bashar al-Ja’afari, who also serves as Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, made the remarks at a news conference after the government delegation's meeting with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura on Friday.

"We agreed with the (UN) Special Envoy (Staffan de Mistura) that we meet once again on Monday at 11 o'clock, and devote the session to discuss our modifications on the paper submitted by the Special Envoy," he said, adding that the two sides discussed humanitarian issues during Friday’s meeting.

Ja’afari also commented on the humanitarian situation in Syria after shipments of medical and food supplies were delivered to 120,000 people in and near the militant-held town of Rastan, located 25 kilometers (16 miles), north of Homs, on Thursday.

"90 percent of these 6.5 million (internally displaced people) now reside in government-controlled areas. They all receive humanitarian aid and 1.7 million have returned to the towns they originally lived in before being displaced," he said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Ja'afari once again accused Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorism in Syria.

He also condemned the "illegal coercive sanctions" imposed by major powers against his country.

"This includes a boycott of Syrian banks and preventing investment in Syria. It would seem the only investment done in Syria is investment in terrorism, it looks like a winning project," he said.

Syria peace talks are under way despite the absence of the Saudi-backed oppositions as leaders of High Negotiations Committee (HNC) left the latest round of the peace talks, which began in Geneva on April 13, to protest at what they called escalating violence and restrictions on humanitarian access in Syria on April 19.

The move has triggered condemnation and doubts about the real intentions of the HNC with the Russian Foreign Ministry accusing it of employing blackmail on April 20.

In reaction to the HNC decision, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad also said the opposition's move proved their lack of seriousness in reaching a political solution to the conflict gripping the Arab country.

The previous round of the UN-backed peace talks for Syria came to a halt on March 24 over disagreements on the role of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s future, with the foreign-backed Syrian opposition insisting that Assad must not have a role in the country’s future.

In an interview with Lebanese TV station Al Mayadeen, the Syrian government's chief negotiator, however, said that Assad's future is not up for discussion at peace talks.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict in the Arab country has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people.

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