Syria Daily: “Peace Talks” Open in Geneva — But Who Will Be There?

29 Jan 20116 UPDATE 1000 GMT: The Assad regime delegation is scheduled to arrive around noon Geneva time (1100 GMT), and will meet with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura.

By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – ORIGINAL ENTRY: “Peace talks” for Syria open in Geneva on Friday, but it is uncertain if anyone will attend apart from an Assad regime delegation and several domestically-based Syrian politicians.

The UN, Russia, and US have brokered the discussions with the objectives of starting a political transition within six months. However, the opposition-rebel bloc has called for the fulfillment of preconditions — ceasefires with a halt to regime and Russian bombing, release of detainees from regime prisons, and access to humanitarian aid for besieged areas — before negotiations begin. The Assad regime has said it will not make any concessions before or during the discussions.

The situation was further complicated when the regime and its main allies, Russia and Iran, refused to accept the opposition-rebel bloc. Instead, Moscow put forth an alternative list of 15 names, including Syrian politicians close to Russia and leaders of Kurdish groups.

Meeting in Riyadh this week, the opposition-rebel bloc has not accepted the invitation sent by UN envoy Staffan de Mistura. The bloc said on Thursday that it was still considering its position, but that its negotiations would not be in Geneva in Friday.

“We want the talks to start, but the main obstacle is those who continue bombing our civilians and starve them,” spokesman Salem al-Muslat said.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, ahead of a visit to Saudi Arabia, “The opposition is resuming its discussions at the moment. We hope that they make a decision to participate. We are also encouraging them to participate.”

However, the coordinator of the opposition-rebel bloc, former Prime Minister Riad Hijab, maintained, “Tomorrow we won’t be in Geneva. We could go there, but we will not enter the negotiating room if our demands aren’t met.”De Mistura has invited the Syrian politicians on Russia’s list. However, he did not invite the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Saleh Muslim, amid threats by Turkey that it would boycott the process if the PYD attended.The Turkish Government maintains that the PYD is led by the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has carried out an armed struggle for more than 30 years for autonomy and which is listed as a “terrorist organization” by the US. UN envoy de Mistura addressed the Syrian people in a video on Thursday, saying that the talks were expected to start “in the next few days”.