UN Foresees Syria Talks Delay in Geneva

UN Foresees Syria Talks Delay in Geneva
UN Foresees Syria Talks Delay in Geneva

Syria peace talks scheduled to begin January 25 will likely be delayed by a few days. World powers working to shepherd the parties are hung up trying to write the guest list.

The UN announced that the latest talks to end Syria’s five-year civil war in Geneva might face new delays as world powers dispute whom they will allow to represent the opposition, AFP reported.

“It’s likely that the date of the 25th might slip by a few days simply for practical reasons,” Farhan Haq, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said on Thursday.

Haq said UN officials would reevaluate preparations over the weekend and make a decision about the Monday start of the talks in Geneva. US Secretary of State John Kerry backed up Haq’s assessment that any delay would prove minor.

“It may be a day or two for invitations but there is not going to be a fundamental delay,” Kerry said on Thursday. “The process will begin on the 25th and they will get together and see where we are.”

Diplomats continue to scramble to resolve the key question of who will represent Syria’s fractious opposition at the talks with the Assad government.

The main coalition of opposition bodies, the High Negotiations Committee, had announced a delegation to the talks on Wednesday, but its composition quickly came under fire.

The group named Mohamed Alloush, a political leader of the Saudi-backed armed group Jaish al-Islam, as its chief negotiator at the talks.

The National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change called it “not acceptable” that the delegation’s chief would come from the armed opposition.

“This sends the wrong political message to the Syrian people,” the committee charged.

The United States, Turkey and Iran have also sparred with one another and Russia over which groups to invite. Russia and Iran support the Syrian government, while the United States, Turkey and many European nations ally with various rebel factions.

Disagreement also remains over whether one or two delegations will represent the opposition. Making the High Negotiations Committee the sole representative, which the body insists on, excludes other opposition groups, as well as minorities such as Kurds who also have much at stake in Syria.