MESOP BACKGROUNDER : Syria Daily: No Opposition-Rebel Bloc at “Peace Talks” on Friday

January 27 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – Syria’s main opposition-rebel bloc has confirmed that it will not attend UN-brokered talks in Geneva on Friday.

After meeting on Tuesday, the bloc said that it was suspending involvement in the process because preconditions for discussions had not been met. These included ceasefires with a halt to Russian and regime bombing, release of detainees from regime prisons, and humanitarian aid for besieged areas. It reiterated in a statement and in letters to the UN that the confidence-building measures must be implemented to ensure a productive engagement with the Assad regime.

US Secretary of State John Kerry had indicated last weekend that the conditions should not be met before the discussions, but should be addressed during the talks. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura had also given no sign that the issues should be addressed in advance of negotiations.

Instead, de Mistura sent invitations on Tuesday to some of the delegates on an alternative list of 15 names proposed by Russia. Invitees included Saleh Muslim, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD); Ilham Ahmed, a leading member of the Kurdish Democratic Society Movement; Randa Kassis, President of the domestic group Movement of the Pluralistic Society; Haitham Manna, head of the recently-created Syrian Democratic Council; and Qadri Jamil, a former Cabinet member with long-standing ties to Moscow.

The opposition-rebel bloc, established last month at a conference in Saudi Arabia, excluded the PYD. The President of the Syrian National Coalition, Khaled Khoja, said on Tuesday:

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seeks to deceive the world by insisting on presenting the PYD as the Kurds’ sole representative in the upcoming negotiations. There are two members representing the Kurds in the opposition’s negotiating delegation formed by the High Negotiations Committee in Riyadh, and there are Kurdish members in all the bureaus and bodies formed thereafter.

The bloc maintains that the domestic Syrian politicians promoted by Russia are too close to the regime to constitute an opposition.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees supported the decision to stay away from Geneva. It said the delegates should reject any form of dictation and extortion and not be moved by pressure” from an Obama Administration which was moving closer to the Russian position behind the Assad regime.

Last weekend Kerry told the coordinator of the opposition-rebel bloc, former Prime Minister Riad Hijab, that it must attend Geneva or face a loss of support, according to senior opposition figures.

Kerry denied that he made the demand.


De Mistura’s invitations also defied a challenge by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu that Ankara will boycott the meetings if the Kurdish PYD attends.

The Turkish Government maintains that the Syrian Kurdish movement is led by the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has pursued an armed campaign for more than 30 years for autonomy. A ceasefire between Ankara and the group broke down last July.

The Saudi Embassy to the UN issued a statement on Tuesday night backing the opposition-rebel bloc, “We commend the efforts of the opposition and the composition of the Supreme Commission for the negotiations, and we will continue to fully support the Syrian people to maintain unity of Syria.”