Syrian opposition says it wants to make peace talks work, test Assad

By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - A Syrian opposition delegation arrived in Geneva late on Saturday saying they were keen to make U.N. peace talks a success and test the government's intention to implement U.N. resolutions. Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee, said President Bashar al-Assad must release women and children from government jails and allow aid into besieged areas, but that there were no preconditions for talks. “We are keen to make this negotiation a success. But we should ask the other side. The other side is pretending to represent the Syrian people. In fact, he is killing the Syrian people," Muslat told a scrum of reporters as the delegation arrived at their hotel in Geneva after a flight from Riyadh. A U.N. Security Council resolution passed last month demands that all sides allow immediate humanitarian aid to all besieged areas, release arbitrarily detained prisoners and stop attacking civilian areas. Opposition coordinator Riad Hijab, who was not among the group that arrived in Geneva, said in a statement posted online that there would have to be humanitarian improvements to justify the delegation's continued presence at the talks. The HNC delegation of more than 20 people, including at least one woman, arrived in a large white van under police escort. Other HNC members had arrived earlier by taxi while the larger group was delayed by “visa issues” at Geneva airport. Muslat said the insistence on the implementation of the Security Council resolution was not a precondition for talks, but it was the responsibility of the Security Council members, who include Syria's chief ally Russia. An HNC member said on Friday that the opposition had a list of 3,000 women and children in Syrian government jails. "Release (of) these women from jails is important to everybody, not to only Syrians," Muslat said. "Feeding these children, bringing bread and milk to them, it doesn’t take that much. But I believe people should really take responsibility for that and help Syrian people get rid of this regime." In almost five years of war, more than 250,000 people have been killed and more than 10 million driven from their homes. Almost half a million are living in besieged areas cut off from humanitarian aid. "Diplomacy is not about who is sitting around the table, but about who truly wants to end the suffering," the HNC said in a statement. "The Assad regime has come here to pretend it wants peace while continuing to kill our people." (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Kinda Makieh; writing by Tom Miles; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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