Syrian opposition issues new demands on upcoming peace talks

BEIRUT - One of the major opposition groups in the Syrian war said Wednesday it will only attend the imminent Geneva peace talks if the sieges in the country are lifted and other conditions are met, casting further uncertainty on the talks scheduled to begin in two days.

See Full Article

Expectations are already low for any breakthroughs during talks that UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has described as the start of a long term process of consultation between various parties to the conflict, rather than actual peace negotiations between the warring sides.

The talks are meant to start a political process to end the conflict that began in 2011 as a largely peaceful uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad's rule but escalated into an all-out war after a harsh state crackdown. The plan calls for cease-fires in parallel to the talks, a new constitution and elections in a year and a half.

But there have been major tensions over who would be invited to the talks, and the opposition has demanded confidence-building measures from the government on humanitarian issues.

In a statement released at the end of daylong meetings in Saudi Arabia late Tuesday, the Higher Negotiating Committee referred to the "necessity of realizing genuine improvements on the ground before starting in the negotiating process."

The Saudi-backed committee is headed by Riyad Hijab, a former prime minister who defected to the opposition in 2012. It represents a coalition that includes the main political opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, and many of the major rebel factions fighting in Syria.

While the group left open the possibility of its eventual participation in the talks scheduled to begin Friday, it said it awaits a reply from the UN chief on its conditions.

The opposition has accused Russia, a key backer of the Syrian government, of trying to "dictate" who from the opposition would participate.

Moscow has insisted on the participation of the main Syrian Kurdish group - the Democratic Union Party, or PYD - which plays an important role in fighting the Islamic State group and is an essential part of any political settlement in Syria.

Turkey, a major backer of the rebels, sees the PYD and its YPG militia as branches of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, which has waged a long insurgency against Ankara. Turkey has threatened to boycott the talks if the PYD is represented.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France-Culture radio on Wednesday that the PYD was not invited and acknowledged there are several hurdles facing the talks including who will be present.

"The PYD group, the Kurdish group, was causing the most problems, and Mr. de Mistura told me he had not sent them an invitation letter," Fabius said.

He said the Riyadh group should be the primary negotiator for the rebels.

The Riyadh group is a broad coalition that includes several armed Islamic groups, such as the powerful Jaish al-Islam and ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham faction, which the Russian and Syrian governments consider as terrorist groups. It does not, however, include the Islamic State group or Nursa Front, two militant factions that control large areas of Syria and are not participating in peace talks.

-----

Associated Press writer Angela Charlton contributed reporting from Paris.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Armed school officer didn't confront Florida gunman, sheriff says

    World News CBC News
    The armed officer on duty at the Florida school where a shooter killed 17 people never went inside to engage the gunman and has been placed under investigation, officials announced Thursday. The Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a gunman armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle has reignited national debate over gun laws and school safety, including proposals by U.S. Source
  • School officer never went inside to confront gunman, Florida sheriff says

    World News CTV News
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The armed officer on duty at the Florida school where a shooter killed 17 people never went inside to engage the gunman and has been placed under investigation, officials announced Thursday. The Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a gunman armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle has reignited national debate over gun laws and school safety, including proposals by President Donald Trump and others to designate more people -- including trained…
  • 'You didn't win': Singer Susan Aglukark publicly names her abuser at MMIWG hearings

    Canada News CBC News
    Susan Aglukark ended the Rankin Inlet hearing for the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women by addressing the man she says sexually abused her when she was eight years old. "Norman Ford," she said on Thursday afternoon. Source
  • Jaspal Atwal, B.C. man at centre of media storm over Trudeau invite, likes posing with politicians

    Canada News CBC News
    For a man once convicted of trying to kill a politician, Jaspal Atwal seems to have had little trouble getting his picture taken with MPs, cabinet ministers and Liberal party leaders, including Justin Trudeau. Atwal — convicted in 1986 of the attempted assassination of an Indian state cabinet minister visiting Vancouver Island — is at the centre of an international media storm after posing for photos with Prime Minister Trudeau's wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and Infrastructure Minister…
  • Tina Fontaine's death and Raymond Cormier's trial: What the jury heard

    Canada News CTV News
    WINNIPEG -- Jurors sat through three weeks of evidence in the trial of Raymond Cormier, 56, who on Thursday was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the slaying of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine. Tina's body, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks, was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg several days after she disappeared in August 2014. Source
  • B.C. seeks reference case over pipeline to affirm its rights over oil shipments

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA -- The British Columbia government will ask the courts if it has the right to protect its environment by restricting diluted bitumen in the Trans Mountain pipeline. Premier John Horgan said Thursday his government is filing a constitutional reference case on the issue, which has been at the centre of a heated dispute between B.C. Source
  • Wine ban suspended: Truce called in trade war between B.C. and Alberta

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA -- The Alberta government has accepted an olive branch from British Columbia and is suspending its ban on the province's wine in an ongoing dispute over the Trans Mountain pipeline. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley took the step after B.C. Source
  • Toddler who befriended Nova Scotia garbage men gets special birthday gift

    Canada News CTV News
    Every Wednesday, three-year-old Hiro Getson walks to the end of his driveway, sits down and waits for the garbage truck. Like many kids his age, the toddler from Eastern Passage, N.S. has developed a love of big trucks. Source
  • Raymond Cormier not guilty in death of Tina Fontaine, 15

    Canada News CBC News
    Read our live coverage belowA jury has found Raymond Cormier not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Tina Fontaine. After the verdict was delivered, people in the crowd burst into tears and gasps of disbelief were heard from members of the teen girl's family and supporters. Source
  • Hunters fined for shooting couple's pet pigs

    Canada News CBC News
    Two men who shot and killed a Navan couple's cherished pot-bellied pigs last November have been fined after pleading guilty Thursday. The pigs, named Pickles and Rosie, were companion animals to Matt Nooyen and Lianne Guilbeault, and even participated as members of the couple's wedding party last September. Source