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In Syria, As Support Collapses for Jarba, To Whom Will Kidwa Reach in Turkey?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 16 -- After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday belatedly confirmed his selection as envoy on Syria chemical weapons of Sigrid Kaag of the Netherlands, and as noted by Inner City Press Shell Oil, his spokesperson Martin Nesirky spoke of at least three other envoys fanning out on the topic.

  Jeffrey Feltman was said to be in Moscow, meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Gatilov and Bogdanov. Earlier on Monday the Russian press quoted an unnamed senior UN official that the so-called Geneva Two talks on Syria will take place in the second half of November.

  But with whom?

  Deputy Joint Special Representative Nasser al-Kidwa is said to be headed to Turkey to meet with the Syrian opposition. Inner City Press asked, does this mean Syrian National Coalition "president" Ahmad al Jarba, with whom Ban met at his house in September? (And who held a faux "UN briefing" in the clubhouse given to Ban's UN Censorship Alliance UNCA in July.)

  Now 70 groups in Syria have said he has no legitimacy.

 From the UN's Wednesday noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: Thanks, Martin. I understand that he said that Mr. [Nasser] al-Kidwa is going to go to Turkey and speak with, I guess, the opposition. I wanted, in that context, to ask you: there has been a second announcement, this time by 70 of the armed groups, saying that they reject specifically by name the Syrian National Coalition and its leadership. And it seems like the Free Syrian Army is trying to say they are not being rejected, but the Coalition should listen more to the people actually inside Syria. So, I am wondering, those are two groups, there are other groups, who is he going to meet with and also generally what is the Secretariat’s view given this new announcement of the Syrian National Coalition as a sort of a major interlocutor, as a representative for the Syrian opposition?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, we’ve said all along and the Secretary-General himself has said, including when he met the head of the Syrian National Coalition, Mr. [Ahmed] al-Jarba, that it is absolutely vital that there should be a single delegation representing the opposition. And that there should be as much outreach to the various parts of the opposition — and we all know the difficulties that there are — that there should be that outreach with the intention of coming to Geneva in the middle of November with one team representing the opposition. And it is Mr. al-Kidwa’s role as part of what the Secretary-General described as working at all levels to reach out to the opposition there. And of course, there will be other contacts; Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi is also going to be in the region, and therefore, able to interact with various players, too. And as we have repeatedly said, no one is suggesting this will be easy. It is extremely difficult. Those countries with influence on the different parties are also playing their role, too.

Inner City Press: Thanks a lot, one follow-up: while Mr. al-Jarba was here, there had just been an announcement by some groups and now there seems to be a larger group of armed groups and opposition saying that he doesn’t represent them. So, is it going in the right direction? Does the UN view the Syrian National Coalition as a central thing to build a unified Geneva II presence around or are they looking for something else?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Look, ultimately, it is for the Syrian people to decide the format, under which umbrella and so on. What the Secretary-General has made clear, and Mr. Brahimi, is that, from their perspective, it is crucial that there should be a unified single delegation representing the opposition, in the same way that there will be a single delegation representing the Syrian Government.

  In fact, it seems unlikely Jarba could do it. Who else is Kidwa in touch with? We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

Footnote: While Ban Ki-moon and his entourage showed up at Wednesday's noon briefing, he and Sigrid Kaag each made statements but took no questions at all. The Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info has questioned this practice and now asks: if Kaag says her "first press encounter" will be in the Hague, what was it that happened on Wednesday? A glorified photo-op in the UN noon briefing, with the journalists as extras?


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