UN Syria envoy De Mistura gives opposition ultimatum

UN Syria envoy De Mistura gives opposition ultimatum
Syrian opposition groups have been given a one week deadline by the UN to form a negotiating team to take part in negotiations in Switzerland.
2 min read
01 February, 2017
De Mistura has led UN efforts to find peace in Syria since 2014 [AFP]
Syrian opposition groups must form a united front for negotiations with the regime or the UN's Syria envoy will select representatives himself, Steffan De Mistura said on Tuesday.

De Mistura who was apppointed the UN's Syria envoy in 2014 said he had postponed UN-led peace talks until 20 February to give the opposition time to present a united front.

He has given the opposition a one week deadline for the task.

"If by the 8 February, the opposition will not be ready to come up with a unified group, I will have to... actually select the delegation in order to make sure that it can be as inclusive as possible," De Mistura said.

Syrian peace talks were due to be held on 8 February in Geneva before Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week announced they would be delayed, without providing reasons.

De Mistura said he hopes the new extension will allow for better conditions for the Syrian regime and opposition to hold talks on ending the six-year war, particularly as a limited ceasefire is now in place.

"We want to give a chance both to the government to become seriously engaged in discussions and the opposition (...) to actually be able to be given a chance to come with one unified opposition," De Mistura told reporters after a closed door meeting with the UN security council.

The UN is hoping the talks will allow for it to take charge of negotiations, after Russia, Iran and Turkey began their own in the Kazakh capital Astana last week.

"If the ceasefire becomes as solid as we hope that will only help the Syria talks," said the envoy.

The Syrian opposition has been divided over representation to the talks.

Turkey, which backs rebel forces, has for the first time conceded that a peace deal that excludes Assad from power might not be possible.

The new date was announced after US Ambassador Nikki Haley meet with De Mistura on Monday to discuss the way forward in Syria.

Agencies contributed to this story.