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  • High Negotiations Committee (HNC) spokesman Salem al-Meslet speaks to the press upon his arrival on Jan. 30, 2016 in Geneva.

    High Negotiations Committee (HNC) spokesman Salem al-Meslet speaks to the press upon his arrival on Jan. 30, 2016 in Geneva. | Photo: AFP

Published 31 January 2016

UN sponsored Syria peace talks remain shrouded in doubt after the main opposition group refuses to enter into dialogue with the current government.

Syria’s main opposition umbrella group has threatened to quit peace talks before they begin in earnest and has set a series of demands for President Bashar al-Assad's government to meet for talks to progress.

Representatives from the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), an umbrella group made up of Syria’s main opposition groups, arrived in Geneva, Switzerland late Saturday for talks but are now refusing to engage in formal negotiations, even indirectly, with Syrian leadership officials.

The HNC are demanding that humanitarian aid first gets through to besieged towns, that bombing of civilians ceases and that hundreds of prisoners are released before joining the scheduled negotiations.However, many of the opposition groups are also responsible for much of Syria’s suffering.

"If the regime insists on continuing to commit these crimes then the HNC delegation's presence in Geneva will not be justified," coordinator Riad Hijab warned in a statement in Arabic posted online Saturday.

"The delegation will inform de Mistura of its intentions to withdraw its negotiating team if the UN and world powers are unable to stop these violations."

However Salem al-Muslet, a spokesperson for the group, said representatives “are ready to start negotiating but at least we should see something,” upon arriving in Geneva.

The group begrudgingly agreed late on Friday, after U.S. and Saudi pressure, to attend the peace talks- the biggest push yet to end the five-year civil war.

NEWS: Syrian Opposition Will 'Participate, Not Negotiate' in Talks

The talks are part of the process outlined in a UN resolution passed in December for an 18-month political transition in Syria that includes drafting of a new constitution and elections.

Aso on Saturday the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that there are over 4.5 million people with immense humanitarian needs living in areas extremely hard to access because of fighting.

teleSUR reported earlier in January aid convoys from Lebanon reached three towns in Syria where thousands are trapped without food and medical supplies.

The World Health Organization asked the Syrian government for permission to conduct a “door-to-door” assessment of medical needs in Madaya, 40 kilometers from the capital Damascus, where the situation still remains critical.

VIDEO: Dossier 01/26: Russia Calls to Include Kurds in Syria Peace Talks

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