Syria requests opposition delegation list before peace talks

Friday 08/01/2016
Damascus is ready to attend peace talks in Geneva

DAMASCUS - Syria's foreign minister on Saturday said his government was still waiting to receive the names of opposition figures attending peace talks later this month in Geneva, state news reported.

After meeting with United Nations peace envoy Staffan de Mistura in Damascus, Walid Muallem confirmed his government would take part in negotiations beginning January 25.

The talks are part of an ambitious 18-month plan backed by the UN Security Council to end Syria's nearly five-year war.

But Muallem said it was "necessary" that his government see the names of opposition groups that would attend, as well as a list prepared by Jordan of which armed factions would be considered "terrorist organisations."

Syrian government figures have requested these lists in the past as apparent preconditions for talks.

The embattled regime refers to all its opponents as "terrorists."

"The efforts to find a political solution and the recent decisions of the UN Security Council in this regard are linked with the credibility of counter-terrorism efforts," Muallem said according to the SANA news agency.

De Mistura's brief trip to Damascus is part of a string of regional visits in the buildup to the talks. The envoy was in Riyadh earlier this week and will head next to Tehran.

Muallem pledged that Syria would "continue cooperating with the special envoy... to fight terrorism and move forward with dialogue among Syrians."

On Friday, more than 20 rebel groups published a statement denouncing the international community for pressuring the opposition to "make concessions" in the peace process, accusing world powers of being "complicit" in the suffering of Syrians.

More than 260,000 people have died since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011, and previous efforts to find a political solution to the war have failed.