Syrian oppo threatens boycott of peace talks

Jan 25, 2016, 4:45 PM EST
Source: Alisdare Hickson/flickr
Alisdare Hickson

Peace talks pushed to Friday as dispute over who will represent opposition groups prompts threats for a boycott. 

Reuters reports:

The United Nations said on Monday it would issue invitations for marathon Syrian peace talks to begin this week, but opposition groups signalled they would stay away unless the government and its Russian allies halt air strikes and lift sieges on towns.

The first talks in two years to end the Syrian civil war were meant to begin on Monday but have been held up in part by a dispute over who should represent the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said he was still working on his list, and expected to issue the invitations on Tuesday for talks to start on Friday.

The aim would be six months of talks, first seeking a ceasefire, later working towards a political settlement to a war that has killed more than 250,000 people, driven more than 10 million from their homes and drawn in global powers.

The ceasefire would cover the whole country except parts held by Islamic State militants and al Qaeda's Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, de Mistura told a news conference in Geneva.

De Mistura, whose two predecessors quit in apparent frustration after holding failed peace conferences of their own, acknowledged the going would be difficult. Delegations would meet in separate rooms in "proximity talks", with diplomats shuttling between them. Threats to pull out should be expected.

Deutsche Welle writes:

Peace in Syria, Peter Neumann from King's College London told a gathering of parliamentarians and journalists in a packed conference room in Berlin's Bundestag on Monday, was neither "reachable nor achievable." All of the conflict's main parties still believed they could win on the battlefield. "They just don't believe they need to make any painful compromises yet."

At most, peace talks may lead to a much-needed ceasefire, but "any more permanent solution is just not feasible at the moment."

His comments came only few hours after the news hit the headlines that Syrian peace talks meant to begin this week had been stalled over a row over who would represent the Syrian opposition - and whether armed groups, including al Qaeda affiliates which many in the West find far from palatable, should have a seat at the table.