UN sends out invitations to participants in Syria talks

UN does not say which opposition groups have been invited to take part in negotiations scheduled to start on Friday.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has sent out invitations to the Syrian participants of the Geneva talks scheduled for Friday, the UN said in a statement.

The UN did not say on Tuesday who had been invited or how many groups might participate, but the secretary-general’s office said the list of invitees was arranged in accordance with the Security Council resolution 2254.

The resolution, which was unanimously adopted in December 2015, demands a ceasefire from all sides, calls for free and fair elections within 18 months and endorses talks between the Syrian government and opposition.

De mistura said in a news conference on Monday that the talks will take begin in Geneva on January 29 and are expected to last for six months.

He said the talks will push for a nationwide ceasefire for all parties other than the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusra Front armed groups.

Khaled Khoja, the president of the Syrian National Coalition, said that the opposition bloc is ready for the talks despite the delay.

“The core of the issue is not related to setting a date for negotiations, but whether there is an international political will to create an appropriate environment for negotiations,” he said in a statement .

“The moment there is such an environment, we will be ready to engage in negotiations as we have already assembled our delegation negotiators.”

Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said on Tuesday that Turkey opposes the involvement of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) or its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in the Geneva talks.

“A negotiating table without Kurds would be incomplete. But we are definitely against the YPG and PYD, who inflict cruelty on Kurds also, sitting at the table,” he said.

“The PYD cannot represent the Syrian people’s ‘true struggle’,”he added.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, also said that Turkey will boycott the talks if the PYD are invited.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Geneva, said that the PYD leader was not invited to the talks.

“We spoke to the PYD leader, Salem Muslim, who is in Switzerland but said he was not invited to the talks,” Bays said.

The proposed Geneva 2 peace effort has been blighted by disagreements over which rebel groups should be allowed to attend.

Syrian army captures key town

The latest diplomatic developments came as Syrian army announced a major victory, capturing the key southern town of sheikh maskin from rebel forces after weeks of fierce fighting.

The fall of Sheikh Maskin on Monday means that government forces will strengthen their hold on Deraa province, while cutting off rebel factions from key supply lines.

Deraa, the scene of the earliest protests against the Syrian government in 2011, contains routes crucial to both the Syrian army and rebel fighters.

Homs bombing

Multiple bombings  also targeted a government-run security checkpoint in the central Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday, killing at least 20 people, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency and opposition activists reported.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists across Syria, said the death toll had climbed to 25, with 15 of the casualties being security personnel.

The Syrian conflict has killed at least 250,000 people, according to the UN, and more than half of Syria’s pre-war population of 22.4 million has been internally displaced or have fled abroad.

Source: Al Jazeera

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