The Latest: Opposition has 'no optimism' for peace talks

AP News
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Posted: Feb 02, 2016 6:53 AM
The Latest: Opposition has 'no optimism' for peace talks

GENEVA (AP) — The latest on U.N hosted peace negotiations in Geneva aimed at ending Syria's devastating five-year conflict (all times local):

12.30pm

The chief negotiator of the High Negotiations Committee, the main opposition bloc, says he is not optimistic about the talks, because the situation has not changed on the ground.

Mohamed Alloush, of the Army of Islam militant group, which is part of the HNC, told reporters at a Geneva hotel Tuesday that "the situation in the ground has not changed and as long as the situation stays like that there is no optimism from our side and no good intention to reach a solution by the regime."

He told reporters that the opposition group was still discussing whether to meet with U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura in the coming days. He did not elaborate, and left reporters for a meeting with the opposition group.

Both sides of the Geneva talks have accused each other of bad faith. The opposition has said government airstrikes and sieges of rebel-held areas must stop ahead of talks.

12.15 pm

Russia's Foreign Minister says Moscow supports having all parties to Syria's conflict represented at negotiations in Geneva, even if that includes individuals from hard-line Sunni armed groups.

Sergey Lavrov says the inclusion of individuals from Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, whose founders are linked to al-Qaida, is "realistic" given the situation on the ground in Syria, but added that their participation at the peace talks does not mean "recognition of them as legitimate partners" for peace.

Russia is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad and began an air campaign in Syria four months ago backing his troops. Moscow and Washington are also lead members of the International Syrian Support Group, which helped pave the way for the Geneva talks.

Lavrov spoke during a visit to Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

11.00 am

Syria's official news agency SANA says forces loyal to the government have retaken a village north of Aleppo, opening the way to further advances around Syria's largest city.

The capture of Hardatneen early Tuesday came a day after U.N.-led Syria peace talks got off to a wobbly start in Geneva.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition group that monitors the conflict, says pro-government troops have captured three villages near Aleppo since Monday, opening access to an important supply route to the city.

The Observatory says heavy aerial bombardment, presumed to be from the Russian Air Force, supported the ground troops.

In Geneva, both sides have accused each other of bad faith. The opposition has said government airstrikes and sieges of rebel-held areas must stop ahead of talks.