By Sarah Kuehn,
International News Writer
The Syrian peace talks reconvened on Sunday, Mar. 13, prompting UN envoy Staffan de Mistura to call the development a “moment of truth” in the ongoing conflict, as quoted by the BBC. Mr. de Mistura’s optimism came amidst a growing reluctance to compromise on the part of Syria’s government and opposition groups.
As reported by Al Jazeera, the talks resumed in Geneva after having been suspended due to a recent upsurge in violence in Syria.
Diplomats going to the talks hope to expand on the tentative truce which came into effect at the end of February, even as government forces continue to launch assaults on the Islamic State (IS) stronghold near the world heritage site in Palmyra.
The Nusra Front, a link between IS and al-Qaeda, was not included in the cessation of hostilities.
The peace talks in Geneva represent the first serious diplomatic intervention since Russia’s air strikes in September.
Before the negotiations, Mr. de Mistura stated that “the mother of all issues” was political transition, and that the only other alternative was to return to war, according to the BBC.
Though he has insisted that he wants to hear from all sides on the conflict, he also stated that he will not hesitate to call in the United States and Russia if talks do not continue smoothly, according to Aljazeera. He even stated that he wants to see presidential elections held in Syria in the next 18 months.
On Saturday March 12th, Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, ruled out any discussion on the future of President Assad, according to the BBC. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, then responded by accusing the Syrian government of “trying to disrupt the process.”
The main Syrian opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee (NHC), added that the pre-conditions to the peace talks could halt them before they began, according to the BBC.
Though a cessation of hostilities has been agreed to by most participants in the conflict, there have been violations reported by all participants. There have even been allegations by Russia that Syrian rebels used missiles to shoot down a government warplane.
The BBC reports that more than 250,000 Syrians have been killed and 11 million people, almost half of the population of Syria, have been displaced from their homes since the start of the war 5 years ago.
According to Aljazeera, 80% of Syrian children have been harmed by the civil war and one third of the children in Syria have been born since the start of the conflict.
In recent months, government forces, supported by the Russian airstrikes, have made progress against the rebel fighters, according to the BBC.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 22nd print edition.
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