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UN Guided by Syria Political Transition02/21 06:13

   BEIRUT (AP) -- A top adviser to the United Nations envoy for Syria said 
Tuesday that their "main guidance" for the first intra-Syrian peace talks in 10 
months will be a Security Council resolution that calls for political 

   U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura is putting the "finishing touches on 
arrangements" for Thursday's start of talks in Geneva between government and 
opposition delegations, the fourth round since early last year, his chief of 
staff Michael Contet told reporters.

   Contet noted that Security Council resolution 2254 asks the envoy to convene 
"formal negotiations on the political transition process." The new talks will 
revolve around three issues: "Credible, inclusive and nonsectarian governance", 
a new constitution, and free and fair elections.

   The last U.N.-mediated talks were suspended in April amid renewed fighting. 
Government forces have since recaptured areas around the country including 
rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo --- President Bashar Assad's 
biggest victory since the conflict began in March 2011.

   According to several estimates, Syria's war has killed some 400,000 people, 
displaced millions and sent more than four million refugees to neighboring 

   Contet's comments in Geneva came as some 40 human rights groups and other 
organizations said that the talks should prioritize five key human rights 
issues during negotiations.

   The groups said in a statement Tuesday that achieving respect and promotion 
for human rights during any transition and post-conflict will require key 
legislative and constitutional amendments to enshrine rights protection in law.

   The groups that include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and 
Physicians for Human Rights say the priorities are "to end unlawful attacks and 
to ensure aid access and safe passage for fleeing civilians, detainee rights, 
justice, and security sector reform.

   "One of the main goals of the Geneva talks should be putting an end to the 
violations against Syrians who have faced bombing, chemical attacks, 
starvation, illegal detention, and more horrors," said Lama Fakih, deputy 
Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "To be meaningful, any peace plan 
should bolster a ceasefire agreement with the respect for human rights."

   The statement came a day after some 200 fighters and their families left the 
Damascus suburb of Sargaya for the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib as 
part of a deal with the government to evacuate the area. Over the past few 
years, tens of thousands of fighters and their families have been evacuated 
from around the country to Idlib province.


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