UN envoy to meet pro-Russia Syrian opposition group at talks: delegate
A Syrian opposition group that is close to Russia and tolerated by Damascus will meet UN envoy Staffan de Mistura at peace talks in Geneva, a delegation member told AFP Wednesday.
“We received an invitation to take part in the Geneva talks,” said Fateh Jamous, a member of the so-called Moscow Group, which includes ex-Syrian deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil, who is considered a moderate opposition leader by the regime.
Jamil was in Geneva for an earlier round of talks that collapsed in February but did not meet with de Mistura.
“Our invitation is proof that the talks have entered a new, more serious stage,” Jamous said.
The Saudi-based High Negotiations Committee (HNC), more hardline than the pro-Russia group, has insisted that it be considered the only representative of Syria’s opposition at the talks.
HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet told AFP on Tuesday that expanding the number of opposition delegations was “unacceptable.”
President Bashar al-Assad’s fate is seen as the main obstacle to the deal, with the HNC insisting that the Syrian leader must go before any transitional government is agreed.
Jamous charged the HNC with imposing “conditions that we consider contradictory to the principle of consensus, including the condition of the president’s departure.”
“We will present to de Mistura our vision of the transitional period, which cannot happen without consensus from all sides,” he added.
De Mistura said Tuesday that regime ally Russia’s surprise decision to begin withdrawing its forces from Syria could be “positive” for efforts to find a political solution to the brutal five-year war.
It “is not a coincidence, or at least we should not consider it a coincidence, that the (pullout) decision took place at the very beginning” of the talks, the UN envoy said following his Tuesday meeting with the HNC.
Experts and Western leaders have said the Russian withdrawal could be part of a broader effort from Moscow to pressure its long-time ally Assad into negotiating an end to the conflict.