UN: Syria peace talks on hold pending agreement on opposition

Published January 19th, 2016 - 06:00 GMT

The United Nations said Monday that Syria peace talks slated to begin Jan. 25 were on hold until all major parties could agree which opposition groups should be represented in the talks, Reuters reported.

"At this stage the U.N. will proceed with issuing invitations when the countries spearheading the ISSG (International Syria Support Group) process come to an understanding on who among the opposition should be invited," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Diplomats say it looks increasingly likely that the talks will be delayed. The countries driving the diplomatic efforts between the Assad government and opposition groups in Syria include the United States, Russia, European powers as well as several Middle Eastern countries, including rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The Jan. 25 talks are part of a UN-backed plan, approved last month, setting in motion an 18-month political transition for the five-year-old civil war which has killed over 250,000 people.

But even with the rare agreement between Moscow and Washington that made the UN plan possible, the process - which calls for setting up a transitional government and eventually holding elections - faces many obstacles.

Opposition groups backed by western powers say they want all government sieges to cease before beginning peace talks. Meanwhile the UN has said both government and opposition sieges have put thousands of civilians at risk of severe malnutrition and starvation.

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