Syria opposition official signals will go to Geneva talks

Residents inspect damaged ground after a shell fell in the rebel held town of Jarjanaz, southern Idlib countryside, Syria March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A member of the main Syrian opposition council indicated on Monday it will go to talks that the United Nations aims to convene in Geneva, though another opposition official said they had yet to make a decision. "Our inclination is to go," Riad Nassan Agha, a member of the High Negotiations Committee, told Reuters, adding that he hoped nothing would prevent that from happening. Another HNC spokesman later told Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath TV the council had yet to take a decision on participation. Agha, speaking to Reuters by telephone, said that violations of a cessation of hostilities agreement on the part of President Bashar al-Assad's government and its allies had reduced in the last two days. He said people would start arriving in Geneva on Friday, cautioning that the HNC hoped nothing would happen that would prevent it from going to the talks. He added that the HNC wanted an immediate start to negotiations on a transitional governing body. "We started to notice that the volume of violations has started to reduce in the last two days. We hope that in the coming days until Friday that the violations reach zero," he said. "If these violations end this will create the favorable environment for the start of negotiations." A cessation of hostilities agreement brokered by the United States and Russia has reduced the overall level of violence in Syria since it came into effect on Feb. 27, though each side has accused the other of violating it. HNC coordinator Riad Hijab said on Friday Russia and their allies had carried out 90 air strikes in the country since a ceasefire was declared last weekend and current conditions are not favorable for these negotiations. He said it was premature to say if talks would resume. (Reporting by Tom Perry; Editing by Dominic Evans)