Riad Hijab, head of the Syrian main opposition umbrella group High Negotiations Committee (HNC). Hijab said that it is not UN envoy Staffan de Mistura's "business" to select representatives for the Syrian opposition. Photo:AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Syria’s main political opposition group, opposes the participation of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the fourth round of UN-sponsored Geneva talks, planned for later this month. The group’s statement comes after the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura signaled that he would select members of the opposition if they cannot agree on their delegation, a move strongly opposed by both the HNC and the armed opposition.
Mohammad Sabra, a member of the HNC, and also the group’s legal adviser to the Astana talks, said that other opposition members who in the past took part in negotiations shall be welcomed, but he ruled out the possibility of the PYD.
“Our objection to the participation of the Democratic Union Party is a matter of principle and should the party want to take part, it has to do so on the regime side,” Sabra told Sharq al-Awsat newspaper.
The PYD, however, has received assurances from global powers, like Russia and other great nations, that they will be included in the next round of Geneva talks, Khalid Isa, the party’s representative in France earlier told Sharq al-Awsat.
If they do attend, this would be a marked development as the PYD, which is the dominant Kurdish party in the self-autonomous region of northern Syria, the armed Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG), and the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were left out previous negotiations in Geneva as well as the Astana talks hosted last month by Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Their exclusion has mainly been because of objections from Turkey, who considers these groups an inseparable part of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The YPG and SDF have said that they will not be bound to any decisions reached at negotiations to which they are not invited.
The UN envoy Mistura said on Tuesday that the UN would choose a delegation for the opposition parties if they themselves were unable to do so, "in order to make sure that it can be as inclusive as possible."
“Mr. de Mistura's talk of his intentions to form the opposition delegation himself is unacceptable," the HNC stated on Twitter. "Would de Mistura be able to intervene in forming the regime's delegation?"
The armed opposition has said that it is not up to outsiders to choose Syrian representatives, Reuters reported, adding that they would not accept an invitation to negotiation if it did not lead to "transition of power to a transitional governing body."
Both Mistura and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed that the next round of Geneva talks, initially planned for this week, have been postponed to February 20.