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Syria opposition says delegation leaders leaving Geneva

AFP , Tuesday 19 Apr 2016
Riad Hijab
Riad Hijab, chief coordinator High Negotiations Committee (HNC) leaves after a news conference aside of Syria peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, April 19, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)
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The leaders of Syria's opposition delegation were leaving Geneva on Tuesday after the group suspended its formal participation in troubled peace negotiations, the opposition chief said.

The coordinator of the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Riyad Hijab, told journalists he was leaving a day after the group put its participation at the talks on hold to protest escalating violence and restrictions on humanitarian access in Syria.

"I will be travelling today along with some of my colleagues from the HNC. Some people left yesterday and today and they will keep leaving gradually until Friday," Hijab said, speaking in Arabic.

Some delegation members will meanwhile remain in Geneva for technical discussions at their hotel with UN staff and for workshops on humanitarian issues and detainees, Hijab said.

UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura said Monday he had been informed of HNC's intention to suspend its "formal participation" in the talks.

But he insisted the latest round of indirect discussions, which began on April 13, would continue through the week.

The UN envoy stressed that the indirect talks format -- which has seen the HNC and Assad's representatives meet separately with UN mediators -- created flexibility to continue the discussions.

But Hijab appeared deeply disillusioned with the process.

"We will not accept negotiations while our people are still suffering," he thundered.

"It is not suitable, neither morally nor on the humanitarian side to be part of negotiations when Syrians are dying daily from sieges, hunger, bombings, poisonous gases and barrel bombs," he insisted.

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