UN issues invitations to Syria peace talks, but opposition attendance in doubt | News | DW | 27.01.2016
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UN issues invitations to Syria peace talks, but opposition attendance in doubt

The UN envoy to Syria has sent out invitations to Friday's peace talks in Geneva, but the list has been kept secret. Meanwhile, fighting in Syria has continued, including an attack on a government-run checkpoint.

With Syrian peace talks scheduled to begin on Friday, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura (pictured) finally invited participants after months of haggling about who should represent the opposition.

Russia and Turkey are at odds over who should represent Kurdish interests at the talks.

The US is backing the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, the leading Kurdish rebel group in Syria, which has been fighting "Islamic State." Russia also supports the PYD, and insists they be invited to the talks.

Turkey, however, vows to boycott the talks if the PYD are invited. Turkey considers the PYD a political arm of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which both they and the US consider a terrorist organization.

Russia and Turkey at odds

Relations between Moscow and Ankara are at their lowest ebb in years, since Turkey shot down a Russian military jet two months ago.

An opposition spokesman, Salim al-Muslat, said the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which represents a number of opposition groups, was inclined to accept the invitation, but cautioned that a final decision would not be made until after a HNC meeting on Wednesday in the Saudi Arabian capital.

"There is consensus in the High Committee on being positive in our decision," he said.

But a senior opposition official said the HNC may boycott the Geneva talks if the Syrian government fails to put forth any confidence-building measures regarding humanitarian issues.

"It is better for the conference not to start rather than start and fail," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The talks would not be convened if the HNC chose to boycott them, according to a western diplomat speaking to Reuters, adding that envoy de Mistura would perhaps announce a further delay in order to avoid a total collapse of the fledgling peace process.

De Misturra is the third UN envoy to try and organize a peace process - his two predecessors having quit after failing to advance talks.

So far the only party certain to attend the talks is the government of Bashir al-Assad. The Syrian military, with the aid of Russian airstrikes and additional support from Iran, has been making territorial gains in recent months.

That, however, did not stop a deadly attack on a government-controlled checkpoint in the city of Homs on Tuesday. The multiple bombings killed at least 29 people and wounded more than 100.

bik/jr (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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