Rebels: Assad, Russia to blame if peace talks fail
Syrian armed rebel groups said they held the Syrian government and Russia responsible for any failure of peace talks
Syrian armed rebel groups said on Saturday they held the Syrian government and Russia responsible for any failure of peace talks to end the country’s civil war, even before negotiations due to start in Geneva next week.
Syria’s opposition has demanded an end to government sieges and a halt to Russian air raids as goodwill measures before they will attend talks set for Jan. 25. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insists the talks must go ahead next week.
“We hold the Assad regime and its Russian ally responsible for any failure of the political process due to their continued war crimes” including sieges and bombardment of civilian areas, a joint statement from dozens of rebel factions said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday after talks with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in Saudi Arabia that he was confident Syria peace talks would proceed.
Earlier, opposition officials said Friday there was no agreement on a delegation as a new wave of air raids in eastern Syria killed at least 40 people.
The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has the final say on the delegation and who will receive invitations to attend the talks.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq indicated Friday that the talks probably will not start on Monday, telling reporters that the U.N. envoy would hold a news conference in Geneva that afternoon to talk about next steps. Others have said the talks may be delayed by a few days.
“Where we stand on this right now is that Staffan de Mistura, expects to at least roll out the process a bit on Monday,” Haq said. “How that happens will become more clear on that date.”
At the Geneva news conference, he said de Mistura will “give some more details on what will happen next.”
Many in the opposition say Russia wants to add names to the delegation that opposition groups backed by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar announced this week by the Saudis.
Abdul-Basit Sieda of the Saudi-backed opposition said they reject Russia’s desire to add names to the opposition list.
One senior Kurdish official denounced the negotiating team announced in Saudi Arabia as a “delegation of jihadis.”
Another opposition official said Moscow wants to add to the delegation among others, Qadri Jamil, a former Syrian deputy prime minister, as well as Saleh Muslim, the co-president of the largest Kurdish group, the Democratic Union Party or PYD.
Turkey, which has its own large and restive Kurdish population, strongly opposes any PYD participation. The PYD’S military wing has been instrumental in the fight against ISIS in northern Syria. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal details about the talks.
“The PYD wants to hijack the Kurdish cause in Syria,” said Sieda, himself a Kurd, but an opponent of the PYD.
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