Syria delegation ready for talks
GENEVA — The Syrian government has told the United Nations that it has formed a delegation for the January peace talks in Switzerland, but the opposition is still not ready to name their delegates, international Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said yesterday.
In addition to the conflict parties and the five UN veto powers, 25 countries would be invited to the talks, Brahimi said. “On Iran we haven’t agreed yet,” he said after a preparatory meeting with US and Russian representatives, adding that the United States was still opposed to having this Syrian government ally at the table.
Brahimi urged both sides of the conflict to take good-will steps ahead of the peace talks, such as releasing imprisoned or kidnapped children, women, old people and the clergy.
Earlier, senior officials from the United States and Russia met
yesterday with Brahimi to tackle the last obstacles ahead of the Syria peace talks due to start in January in Switzerland.
Envoys from UN veto powers Britain, China and France, as well as Syria’s neighbours, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, were also in Geneva to join the talks during the day.
One of the most contentious issues is whether an invitation to the Swiss talks should also be extended to Iran. Russia wants to see Iran at the table, while the US has demanded that Tehran must first publicly back the official aim of the peace talks, namely a political transition in Syria.
It is also still not clear who will represent the disunited Syrian opposition and dissident groups.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Brussels yesterday for a EU summit said his country will invite representatives of the Syrian opposition to a meeting on January 9 and 10 in the southern city of Cordoba.
The meeting is aimed at “facilitating dialogue” ahead of the Swiss peace conference, Rajoy said, without providing details on who will attend the Cordoba meeting.
Brahimi has said it was important to get a list of delegates as soon
as possible, so that he can start
preparatory talks with both sides of the conflict.
The peace talks are scheduled to start with a meeting of foreign ministers from world and regional powers in Montreux on January 22, followed by negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition in nearby Geneva from January 24.
Since the unrest and violence began in Syria in 2011, more than 130,000 people are estimated to have died, while 8.8 million Syrians have become refugees inside Syria or fled to neighbouring countries, according to UN statistics.