January 27, 2016 / 7:19 PM / 2 years ago

Syrian opposition awaits U.N. response before decision to attend talks

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria’s opposition adjourned a meeting in Riyadh on Wednesday without deciding whether to attend peace talks in Geneva planned for Friday, saying it was waiting for a U.N. response to its demands.

An image of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen on a car parked in front of damaged buildings in the town of Rabiya, after pro-government forces recaptured the rebel-held town in coastal Latakia province, Syria January 27, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

The High Negotiations Committee, which represents a range of Syrian political and armed opposition groups, has repeatedly said the Syrian government and its allies must halt bombardments and lift blockades of besieged areas before it will join any talks.

Preparations for the talks, already postponed from Monday to Friday, have been beset by problems, including a dispute over who should represent the opposition.

Asaad al-Zoubi, an HNC member, told Saudi TV channel Al Ikhbariya there were “Russian and Iranian obstacles” that had prevented talks going ahead, referring to President Bashar al-Assad’s main allies.

“The aim of the regime and its supporters is only to secure the military solution”, Zoubi said. Damascus, Russia and Iran were creating obstacles to ensure the talks did not happen, he said.

Syrian rebel groups have previously said they hold the Syrian government and Russia responsible for any failure of talks.

“We are waiting for the response of (U.N. envoy Staffan) de Mistura first, and then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, which is the most important ... if it is positive maybe there will be an agreement to go,” Zoubi said.

Syria’s opposition reiterated its call for lifting sieges, among other steps outlined in a Security Council resolution last month, in a letter to Ban on Tuesday.

An HNC spokesman, Salim al-Muslat, separately said the body would meet again at 10:00 a.m. in Riyadh on Thursday, Al Arabiya al-Hadath news channel reported.

Reporting by John Davison, Tom Perry and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Editing by Dominic Evans, Larry King

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