Uncertainty shrouds scheduled Syria talks in Geneva

Parties have yet to agree on list of opposition groups who may attend, as both sides seek more assurances.

Talks meant to be held in Geneva next week between both sides of Syria’s civil war – opposition groups and President Bashar al-Assad’s government – are far from certain to take place.

Although the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, briefed the Security Council in a closed meeting on Monday about these much-anticipated talks, there is still no consensus on who should be invited.

“Obviously we hope that the negotiations will take place but there are some questions which have to be dealt with,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

Last month, the Security Council issued a rare, unanimous show of support for negotiations to be held between the Assad government and opposition groups.

But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is now urging countries supporting opposing sides in the conflict to redouble efforts to agree on a list of opposition groups to be invited to peace talks.

Compiling a list has not been an easy task, especially when regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia accuse each other of supporting “terrorists” in Syria.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin also made it clear during talks with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Moscow that he believes the list for the opposition delegation drawn up in Saudi Arabia should include more secular figures and Kurdish representatives.

But even opposition groups set to be invited have not committed to participating in the Geneva talks.

They accuse the Assad government of not genuinely seeking a political solution, citing previous Geneva talks as being deliberately obstructive and derailed by his representatives.

“It’s thought this time around, the format to begin with will be days of proximity talks,” Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor James Bays reported. “The two sides will be kept in separate rooms – with Mr De Mistura shuttling between them.”

Source: Al Jazeera