Syrian opposition says government obstructing peace talks

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GENEVA (AP) — The Syrian opposition said Tuesday that the government delegation to the Geneva peace talks refuses to negotiate with them directly and insists on only discussing terrorism.

Opposition spokesman Yahya Aridi said the Damascus delegation told U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura it won't negotiate directly with the opposition, making it difficult to move forward in the eighth round of indirect negotiations aimed at ending the nearly seven-year civil war.

There was no immediate response from the government team in Switzerland, which met again with de Mistura on Tuesday and did not speak to reporters after the meeting.

Syrian opposition and government delegates are back in Geneva after a short break in the eighth round of talks that de Mistura has hosted since early 2016. The government delegation has protested the opposition's insistence that President Bashar Assad play no role any future transition period.

The opposition has been calling for the "indirect" peace talks — with de Mistura's team shuttling between the delegations — to become direct.

Another opposition official in Geneva, Ahmad Ramadan, told The Associated Press that the government delegation has also refused to discuss three of the four main topics proposed by de Mistura — a new constitution, governance, elections and combating terrorism. He said the government is insisting only on discussing terrorism.

Ramadan also said that the government is insisting that the opposition drop its insistence that Assad will have no role in Syria's transitional period.

"The regime is responsible for bringing negotiations in Geneva to this critical point," Ramadan warned.


Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

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