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Syria's opposition leaders start first formal meeting with UN envoy

Members of the High Negotiations Committee, the main opposition coalition in Syria, have met UN representative Staffan de Mistura in Geneva. However, the committee is not yet ready to meet the Syrian government.

A delegation with representatives of Syria's main coalition of opposition leaders, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), arrived at the United Nations offices in Geneva on Monday. The leaders met UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura for a first official session.

The meeting, which followed

discussions on Sunday

, was a prelude to the "proximity" talks de Mistura planned to hold between oppositions and representatives from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), which comprises Kurds and Arabs, announced that it would not participate in the peace talks.

"We decided on Sunday night to suspend our participation in negotiations so long as the five Kurdish and one Turkman delegates from our list do not receive invitations from UN mediator Staffan de Mistura," the group's leader Haytham Manna told the AFP news agency. The SDC was formed as the political branch of the Kurdish-Arab fighting force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Genf Syrien Konferenz HNC Vertreter Opposition

Assad al-Zoubi, head of the HNC and opposition member George Sabra in Geneva

Manna said his organization and leaders including former Syrian Minister Qadri Jamil and secular activist Randa Kassis had submitted a list of 35 representatives they wanted in the talks. However, only 29 were invited, following which the SDC decided to quit the meeting.

The discussions are part of a November roadmap outlined by the international community that sets an 18-month-long time table to enable political transition in Syria and draft a new constitution.

Syria has been embroiled in a five-year conflict that has killed over 250,000 people and displaced millions. On Monday, the UN said Damascus had approved "in principle" aid deliveries to the besieged towns in Madaya, al-Foua and Kefraya.

"Based on this, the UN will submit a detailed list of supplies and other details; and will include and reiterate the request for nutrition supplies and entry of nutrition/health assessment teams," Jens Laerke of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told journalists.

Watch video 01:42

Syrian opposition may walk out of talks

mg/ng (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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