Beirut, Abu Dhabi – The Syrian opposition rejected Wednesday comments made by U.N. Envoy Staffan de Mistura that he could choose the opposition delegation representatives to U.N.-led talks in Geneva should it fail to do so.
In remarks on Tuesday, the U.N. envoy said that the Geneva talks, which were previously scheduled for Feb. 8, had been postponed to Feb. 20 in order to give the opposition more time to form a united delegation.
However, de Mistura warned that if the opposition failed to pick its representatives before Feb. 8, he would “select the delegation in order to make sure that it can be as inclusive as possible.”
His comments sparked a wave of negative reactions among Syrian opposition figures.
“Selecting the Syrian opposition delegation is not the business … of de Mistura,” wrote Riad Hijab, head of the opposition High Negotiations Committee, on his Twitter account.
Salem Muslet, a Syrian opposition spokesman, described de Mistura’s comments as “unacceptable”.
Muslet also asked whether de Mistura would “intervene in the formation of (the head of the Syrian regime Bashar) Assad’s delegation.”
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, member of the HNC Mohammed Sabra said that de Mistura’s comments did not facilitate effective cooperation that pave the way for a political agreement.
Sabra added that the Syrian opposition would form a new delegation during its upcoming meeting, which would be held within the next 10 days.
On a different note, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit ruled out an early return of Syria to the Cairo-based organization.
Speaking on Wednesday during a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Abul Gheit said that any decision was up to the Arab League’s members, adding that the issue was not on the current agenda and would only be raised when “a political settlement” was in sight for Syria’s almost six-year-old civil war.
The Arab League chief’s comments came in response to Lavrov, who called during the same news conference, for Syria’s return to the Arab League, saying its membership would allow the organization to help find a political solution to the country’s conflict.