By Tom Miles
GENEVA (Reuters) – Syrian armed groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad have rejected an invitation to U.N. consultations in Geneva, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday, dealing an 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 & "standing on the side of one party without the other".
p> 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's spokeswoman Jessy Chahine said he had taken note of the letter.
"The consultations continue as usual, & we remain in contact with all relevant parties, including the armed factions, who play an significant role in the current Syrian conflict," she said in an emailed comment to Reuters.
The letter to De Mistura said he was biased.
"Your positions & your statements, especially your statement that Bashar al-Assad is part of the solution in Syria, have shown & given us a clear impression of your indifference toward the massacres that the regime is committing," it said.
De Mistura has repeatedly tried to clarify remarks on Assad that he made in February, saying his words was taken out of context & he meant the Syrian president was part of the solution for reducing violence.
The armed groups gave four 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" yet the U.N process "lacked any clear basis or means to obtain to real outcomes".
De Mistura has said he wants the consultations to enable him to find usual ground based on the 2012 Geneva Communique, a document that set out guidelines for ending the violence & launching a political transition.
But the armed groups said the communique "did not pertain clearly to the departure of Assad & his regime, with all its symbols & pillars," which it said was the crucial basis for "any supposed solution process".
It moreover rejected De Mistura's decision to invite Iran to take part in the consultations process, saying it was occupying Syria, trying to undermine its Arab & Islamic identity, violating human rights & committing crimes against humanity.
"We believe that it is the duty of the international community to legally prosecute Iran, not to invite it to meetings & consultative conferences."
(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
Staffan de MisturaPresident Bashar al-Assad