The Latest: US, UK reiterate support for Syrian opposition
GENEVA (AP) — The Latest on Syria developments (all times local):
U.S. and British officials have expressed support for the Syrian opposition ahead of peace talks in Geneva.
Alastair Burt, the British minister of state for the Middle East, said after meeting the Syrian opposition delegation chief Nasr Hariri that Geneva talks need “to lead toward the inclusive political transition necessary to end this conflict.”
Burt welcomed the opposition’s achievement at a meeting last week in Saudi Arabia to further unify and broaden its membership.
Hariri also met on Tuesday with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield who expressed U.S. support for a credible political transition process under U.N. auspices, making clear that any process outside of Geneva had no legitimacy.
In reference to the government team’s expected late arrival in Geneva, Hariri said that the “regime was once again undermining the negotiations with its refusal to join the start of the talks.”
A senior Syrian Kurdish official says the Americans would undermine the fight against Islamic State militants in the region if they “turn their back” on their only ally in Syria — the Syrian Kurds.
The remarks by Ilham Ahmed, a member of the political arm of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, were in response to the U.S. administration suggesting that military aid to the Kurdish-led forces may be halted.
Ahmed spoke late on Monday.
Over the weekend, the White House and the Pentagon said there will be “pending adjustments to the military support” to the SDF, though there was no specific confirmation the arms flow would stop altogether.
Ahmed says such “vague” phrasing appears aimed at appeasing Turkey, which sees the Kurdish fighters as an extension of its own insurgent group it labels “terrorists.”
The U.N. envoy for Syria is hailing a “useful” meeting with diplomats from the five permanent Security Council members, while calling on the rival sides in the war-torn country to get down to “business.”
Staffan de Mistura spoke to The Associated Press after briefing envoys from world powers about the eighth round of U.N.-mediated peace talks under his guidance, which begins later Tuesday in Geneva.
He was to meet later Tuesday with opposition leaders, and said he expected a delegation from the government of President Bashar Assad to arrive Wednesday.
The meeting included Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy for the fight against the Islamic State group, and the French Foreign Ministry’s political and security affairs director Nicolas de Riviere.
Russia’s ambassador in Geneva Alexey Borodavkin said Russia appreciated the “opportunity,” but “at the same time, we have some doubts about this kind of format, and do not consider it an established one.”
A Syrian foreign ministry official says a government delegation will arrive in Geneva to take part in direct peace talks with the opposition.
The official said in Damascus that the delegation will take part in talks starting Wednesday afternoon and the delegation will be headed by Bashar Ja’afari, Syria’s representative at the United Nations.
The Geneva talks are scheduled to begin Tuesday and the unified opposition delegation has already arrived.
In Geneva, three diplomats said representatives of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members were meeting to discuss the talks that were set to begin later Tuesday with a meeting between U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura and the opposition.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly to the media.