Guterres sides with De Mistura on opposition delegation pick

Orient Net 2017-02-02 04:55:00

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he backs his Syria envoy’s plan to pick representatives from Syrian opposition to the Geneva talks if the groups fail to agree on their delegates, AFP reported.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura was sharply criticized from the Syrian opposition after giving opposition groups until February 8 to agree on their delegation to the talks, scheduled to open on February 20.

"It is clear this is a possibility that might be used," Guterres told reporters about the ultimatum.

"What we want is the success of the Geneva conference, and the success of the Geneva conference implies that there is a meaningful representation of the Syrian opposition in Geneva," he said.

"We will do everything to make sure that that happens."

De Mistura told the Security Council on Tuesday that he was delaying the peace talks, initially scheduled to begin on February 8, to allow both sides to better prepare, warning that if the opposition fails to agree, he would "select the delegation in order to make sure that it can be as inclusive as possible."

Guterres noted that UN resolutions on Syria give De Mistura the prerogative to pick the delegation to the peace talks.

"What is important is to have, this time, substantive discussions on the central issues, and I hope that this will be possible," he said.

Previous UN-led talks have broken down over disagreements on ensuring a transition in Damascus that would lead to Assad’s exit from power.

The opposition rejected the envoy’s comments as "unacceptable."

"Selecting the Syrian opposition delegation is not the business... of de Mistura," Riad Hijab, head of the opposition High Negotiations Committee, wrote on his Twitter account.