by Scott Lucas 12 March – eaworldview – The opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committees said on Friday that it will attend renewed political talks on Syria’s crisis, beginning March 14 in Geneva.UN envoy Staffan de Mistura told Russian outlet RIA Novosti yesterday that he foresaw an arrangement in which elections will be held in 18 months. He also said that a federal system, mentioned by Russia as a possible outcome, can be discussed.

De Mistura claimed that the prospects for a resolution of the five-year conflict were at their highest point, following a partial cessation of hostilities that began February 27.

While confirming the opposition’s participation, HNC coordinator Riad Hijab said:

Any mention of federalism or something which might present a direction for dividing Syria is not acceptable at all. We have agreed we will expand a non-central government in a future Syria, but not any kind of federalism or division.

The co-leader of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Saleh Muslim, has welcomed the idea:What you call it isn’t important. We have said over and over again that we want a decentralised Syria – call it administrations, call it federalism – everything is possible.

The discussions will be the first since a short-lived effort at the start of February for “proximity talks” between the regime and the opposition-rebel bloc. The HNC said any negotiations were contingent on ceasefires and access to aid for besieged areas; however, Russian and regime forces continued attacks throughout the five days of the meetings. Three weeks later, the US and Russia brokered a “cessation of hostilities”, approved by the International Syria Support Group. The agreement has reduced violence, although pro-Assad forces have continued attacks in several areas, especially in northern Latakia Province and near Damascus.