The Latest: Representative calls for unity among opposition

AP News
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Posted: Feb 26, 2017 2:08 PM
The Latest: Representative calls for unity among opposition

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria and at the Geneva talks (all times local):

8:50 p.m.

A representative of the Moscow-backed Syria opposition says opposition groups need to form a single delegation if they are to enter talks with representatives of the Damascus government in Geneva.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura has invited opposition groups and representatives of the Syrian government to Switzerland in a fresh diplomatic bid to move toward a political solution to the six-year-old conflict in Syria.

After meeting with de Mistura, Hamza Monzer said his group wanted to move from "a situation of paralysis to action."

The Damascus government has repeatedly sought to characterize the Syrian opposition as too fragmented to take part in any serious negotiation.

Three opposition groups were invited to the talks in Switzerland and came together at the last minute in one room for an official welcome ceremony on Thursday.

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7 p.m.

The United Nations envoy for Syria is meeting with Syrian opposition representatives separately in Geneva reflecting the struggle of opposition groups to form a united front in peace talks with the Damascus government.

Staffan de Mistura on Sunday first met with representatives of the opposition delegation dubbed the Cairo platform.

After the meeting, Jihad Makdissi, a former spokesman for the Damascus government who left Syria in 2012 said the envoy gave them papers on "how to facilitate talks" between the various opposition groups and the government.

Makdissi, at the helm of the Cairo delegation, sought to downplay differences in the opposition saying they were "diverse" rather than "fragmented," and could agree on technical rather than political points.

"We want to be one delegation, not a unified delegation," he told reporters.

On Saturday, the Damascus envoy to the U.N.-mediated talks, Bashar al-Ja'afari, said face-to-face talks would only be possible if there is a "unified, patriotic opposition."

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2:50 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say government warplanes are pounding a rebel-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs, killing at least three and wounding dozens.

Sunday's airstrikes came a day after the al-Waer neighborhood was subjected to more than 40 air raids that killed and wounded dozens.

The airstrikes appear to be in retaliation for militant attacks in the city on Saturday that killed a senior security officer and at least 31 others.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the al-Waer-based activist Bebars al-Talawy said the airstrikes killed three people.

The Observatory said that in addition to the airstrikes, al-Waer is being subjected to shelling.

The swift, high-profile attacks against the Military Intelligence and State Security offices were claimed by an al-Qaida-linked insurgent coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee.