Non-Syrians barred from upcoming peace negotiations

Published January 27th, 2016 - 08:00 GMT

The United Nations says no non-Syrians have been invited to upcoming peace negotiations aimed at finding a solution to the deadly conflict in the Arab country.

The announcement, which was made on Wednesday, came a day after Turkey suggested that it would be part of the talks that are scheduled for Friday.

On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara would "boycott" the meeting in case the Syrian Kurdish group, Democratic Union Party (PYD), was invited.

Ankara accuses the PYD and its military wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), of links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s.

Khawla Mattar, a spokeswoman for the UN's Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, said there was "no plan to invite" non-Syrians in response to a question about the possible inclusion of observer delegations from Turkey, Russia, the United States or France.

The official, however, refused to reveal which parties were asked to attend the talks.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, has called for the participation of Kurds in the peace talks and insisted that the meeting would not be successful if Kurdish representatives are not invited.

To attend or not to attend?

The development comes as the Syria opposition, backed by Saudi Arabia, is yet to decide whether to take part in the Friday meeting.

The group that calls itself High Negotiations Committee (HNC) met in the Saudi capital city of Riyadh for a second day on Wednesday to discuss its participation in the talks.

The foreign-backed group that was formed last month in a bid to unite the Syria opposition, wants to be the sole opposition delegation in Geneva. It has demanded "clarifications" after the UN issued invitations to other opponents.

The meeting was supposed to be held on Monday but it was postponed over the issue of who will represent the so-called opposition.

The Committee has also set other conditions for taking part in the negotiations including the lifting of the Syrian regime's siege on areas held by militants.

Mattar, however, stressed that there were "no preconditions" attached to joining the talks, suggesting the HNC could not view the guest list before deciding whether to come to Geneva.

Damascus has already announced its readiness to attend the talks, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov saying on Wednesday that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem would head the government delegation.

"An invitation from De Mistura was sent to Walid al-Muallem as head of the government delegation," Gatilov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

Elsewhere in his comments, the official added that the PYD might take part in a later stage of the peace talks in Geneva, but has not been invited to the first round of discussions.

The UN Security Council last December adopted a resolution, calling for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and the formation of a "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian" government within six months.

The Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011, has reportedly claimed the lives of more than 260,000 people, and displaced almost eight million others.

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