Astana invites Syrian rebels, government to talks next week

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

The choice of opposition delegates has been subject to disagreement and the United Nations envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has said it would choose the opposition delegates if they could not agree, "to make sure that it can be as inclusive as possible".

Syria's main opposition body on Sunday approved a new delegation to take part in Geneva peace talks later this month, which include Russian-backed blocs that have been critical of the armed insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad.

France has been insisting on the need for full representation for Syrian opposition groups at those talks, even though de Mistura has been impatient with the failure of opposition groups to come up with an appropriate representation for Geneva.

The KNC, the main Kurdish Syrian opposition party in Syria has attended the Geneva and Astana talks, but they do not have any real authority on the ground in northern Syria where the PYD has created Rojava administration, a self-autonomous region.

The talks are being brokered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's allies Russian Federation and Iran and rebel backer Turkey, which are all key players in the conflict.

Officially, on Friday, France told de Mistura that "for the negotiations to be successful, it is important that the opposition be represented in a credible manner" in Geneva, where the next round of peace talks is due to start on February 20.

But representatives from both groups denied they were included in the delegation.

The HNC also said foreign powers had no right to present a vision of Syria's future political system without the consent of Syrians. "Each component will nominate the person it finds suitable".

An opposition official on Saturday confirmed to Reuters a report by al-Arabiya news channel that Nasr al-Hariri, of the Syrian National Coalition group, will head the delegation.

The Geneva talks were originally planned to take place on February 8, but UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said he had rescheduled them to take further advantage of the fruits of Astana discussions.

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