Astana invites Syrian rebels, government to talks next week

Feb 13, 2017, 00:57
Astana invites Syrian rebels, government to talks next week

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Friday the next round of United Nations-led peace talks on Syria, scheduled for February 20, could turn out to be "disappointing" because of Syrian government "intransigence".

The so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a coalition of foreign-backed Syrian opposition groups, made the announcement in a statement on Sunday, saying that the final composition of the delegation included 10 representatives of militant groups and 11 opposition politicians, mostly affiliated with the armed groups within the coalition.

On January 23-24, Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, hosted talks on Syria organized by Iran, Russia and Turkey, with the presence of representatives of the Syrian government and opposition groups.

Syria's main opposition body which includes political and armed groups, has criticised Mistura's comment as "unacceptable".

The Kurdish ruling Union Democratic Party (PYD) had earlier said that they had received assurances from countries including Russian Federation, that they would attend the meetings in Geneva, a move strongly opposed by the Syrian opposition, and one of their regional backers, Turkey, which considers the Kurdish group an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and therefore a terrorist organization.

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At the end of the talks, Tehran, Moscow and Ankara agreed on the establishment of a trilateral mechanism to support a ceasefire in Damascus.

The Syrian opposition have named delegates to next week's United Nations peace talks in Geneva, according to opposition sources. It will also include Kurdish, Turkmen and Christian representatives, he said, but did not elaborate.

The HNC also said foreign powers had no right to present a vision of Syria's future political system without the consent of Syrians.

Twenty legal advisors will accompany the negotiators to Geneva, he added.

Russia's foreign ministry signalled on Thursday a second round of talks in Astana to be held on Feb 15 and 16, nearly a week before the UN-sponsored Geneva talks.