Syrian Opposition Threatens To Sit Out Peace Talks

January 20, 2014

Syria’s Western-backed opposition has threatened to boycott peace talks in Switzerland after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that he was inviting Iran to be a part of the negotiations.

“We are giving a deadline of 1900 GMT (2 p.m. ET) for the invitation to be withdrawn,” Anas Abdah, a member of the National Coalition’s political committee, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The U.S. State Department has also insisted that Iran’s invitation be rescinded unless Tehran makes “explicit and public support for the full implementation of the Geneva communique including the establishment of a transitional governing body by mutual consent with full executive authorities,” according to a statement on Sunday.

The talks would almost certainly unravel if the National Coalition, the opposition’s main body, refuses to participate.

Ban extended the invitation for Tehran to attend the first day of talks after he “received assurances from Iran that it accepted the premise of the talks — to establish a transitional government for Syria, which has been led by the Assad dynasty since 1970,” The Associated Press says.

As NPR’s Deborah Amos reports on Morning Edition, even without Iran’s controversial participation, “the expectations are low” for the success of the talks, which have been dubbed Geneva-2.

“The warring parties are reluctant. Some of the most important players, including powerful armed rebel groups, are not on the invitation list,” Deborah reports.

She notes that while Syria, at Russia’s prodding, was the first to sign on for the talks, they pose a threat to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which would be threatened by any compromise that might end the country’s brutal civil war.

Speaking on Morning Edition, Rami Khouri, the director of the Fares Institute at the American University in Beirut, says that most of the world recognizes the need for Iran to be at the talks.

Iran, he says, is “the most significant supporter, funder, backer, armor, backer, trainer, and everything else, of Syria.”

Updated at 1:25 p.m. ET. U.N. Chief ‘Considering Options’:

The U.N.’s Ban is “urgently considering his options” after Tehran implied that it does not accept the June 2012 deal that is the basis for Syrian peace talks.

“The secretary-general was deeply disappointed by Iranian statements today that are not consistent with the assurances he received regarding Iranian support for the Geneva communique,” spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters, according to Reuters. “The secretary-general is currently urgently considering his options in light of the disappointing reaction of some participants,” Nesirky said.

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