Syrian Opposition Armed Groups Reject U.N. Invitation

Syrian armed groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad have rejected an invitation to U.N. consultations in Geneva dealing a blow to hopes of reviving talks to end the conflict. The letter from 30 opposition armed groups to the U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who is presiding over the consultations, accused him of abandoning his neutrality and "standing on the side of one party without the other". De Mistura's low-key process, which involves him talking separately to scores of interested parties, follows failed attempts by his predecessors to stop the fighting. He was hoping to directly involve the armed groups for the first time. De Mistura has repeatedly tried to clarify remarks on Assad that he made in February, saying his words was taken out of context and he meant the Syrian president was part of the solution for reducing violence. The armed groups gave multiple reasons for rejecting De Mistura's invitation, including "continuing to work with the regime despite its loss of all forms of legitimacy".They said they would not reject "any real international effort that includes a clear solution" but the U.N process "lacked any clear basis or means to get to real outcomes". De Mistura has said he wants the consultations to enable him to find common ground based on the 2012 Geneva Communique, a document that set out guidelines for ending the violence and launching a political transition.