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Syria offered changes to UN envoy peace proposal: Ja’afari

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 ambassador to the United Nations and head of the government delegation, Bashar al-Ja’afari ©AFP

Syria’s chief negotiator says the Damascus delegation to the UN-brokered talks has proposed “constitutional amendments” to a peace initiative put forward by the UN mediator.

Following two meetings with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva on Monday, Bashar al-Ja’afari, also the Syrian ambassador to the UN, said discussions between the two sides were “rich in ideas,” and that they agreed to continue their talks on Tuesday.

“Today we submitted constitutional amendments to the paper submitted to us by the special envoy and we consider such amendments to be an integral part of this paper,” Ja’afari said.

This came as the so-called opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) leaders left the ongoing peace talks last week. Only a few of its representatives are still in Geneva, Switzerland, for informal technical sessions with the UN team.

However, de Mistura said on April 22 that he would continue the talks probably until Wednesday despite the departure of the Saudi-backed group, which called for renewed attacks on the battlefield against the Syrian army.

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura arrives for a meeting with the Syrian government delegation in Geneva, on April 25, 2016. ©AFP

Ja’afari further said the threats made by certain members of the Saudi-backed opposition before leaving the talks, later translated into the deadly terror attacks that recently hit Aleppo Province and the suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

“The main aim of uttering such statements was the failure of the Syrian-Syrian dialogue and [subjecting the country] to more foreign intervention and carrying out the orders of the masters of the Saudi group to escalate situation,” Ja’afari said.

The government has repeatedly said that the future of President Bashar al-Assad was not up for discussions in Geneva and that political transition should come in the shape of a national unity government that includes current officials, opposition and independent figures.

The opposition, however, has rejected any proposal that keeps President Assad in office.

A ceasefire, brokered by Russia and the US, went into effect on February 27 across Syria, but the fighting that picked up after the HNC withdrawal from the peace talks left the truce in tatters.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Damascus says Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are the main supporters of the militants fighting the government forces.

According to de Mistura, some 400,000 people have lost their lives as a result of over five years of conflict in Syria.

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