Syria says to discuss Russia peace plan talks, opposition rejects

Russian initiative to host peace talks between Syria's warring sides is 'welcome,' says United Nations.

Syria says to discuss Russia peace plan talks, opposition rejects

World Bulletin/News Desk

Syria said on Saturday it is willing to participate in "preliminary consultations" in Moscow aimed at restarting peace talks next year to end its civil war.

But members of the Western-backed Syrian opposition dismissed the Russian plan on Saturday, saying there was "no initiative."

Syrian state television quoted a source at the foreign ministry saying "Syria is ready to participate in preliminary consultations in Moscow in order to meet the aspirations of Syrians to find a way out of crisis."

Moscow, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has pushed to restart talks that collapsed in Geneva in February.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this month that he wanted Syrian opposition groups to agree among themselves on a common approach before setting up direct talks with the Damascus government.

But Lavrov did not specify which opposition groups should take part. Some opposition groups are tolerated by Damascus but shunned by the opposition in exile.

Hadi al-Bahra, head of the Turkey-based opposition National Coalition, met with Arab League Chief Nabil Elaraby in Cairo on Saturday and told a news conference that "there is no initiative as rumoured".

"Russia does not have a clear initiative, and what is called for by Russia is just a meeting and dialogue in Moscow, with no specific paper or initiative," he was quoted by Egyptian state news agency MENA as saying.

The United Nations said on Friday that it welcomes a Russian proposal to host peace talks between the Syrian government and the mainstream opposition to find a political solution to the country's ongoing civil war.

"We welcome any initiative that would reduce violence and help reach a political solution that would end the crisis in the war torn country," the UN Secretary-General's office told The Anadolu Agency.

The proposal anticipates dialogue to reach a solution based on the core elements of the Geneva Communique, which was issued on June 30, 2012, in the Swiss city of Geneva after a meeting of the UN-backed Action Group for Syria.

The communique called for an immediate end to fighting and the formation of a transitional governing body including members of the opposition and the government.

Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian deputy foreign minister and President Vladimir Putin's special presidential representative for the Middle East, had suggested that Syrian opposition figures meet in Moscow by the end of January before they hold talks with representatives of the regime, again in Moscow.

He met Syria's ambassador Riyad Haddad in the Russian capital on Wednesday to discuss the proposal. 

The initiative calls for the formation of a military council of 15 people with the aim of rebuilding the Syrian army and then forming a parliament-like body of 100 people to manage the transitional period in Syria, sources said.

Russia has long backed Assad, including with arms supplies for Syria, but he has become a more important ally for Moscow since the 2011 Arab Spring protests toppled several autocrats in the Middle East, some of whom had close ties with Moscow.

The conflict in Syria that began in March 2011 has claimed nearly 200,000 lives, according to the UN.

The unrest created by the civil war paved the way for extremist movements such as ISIL to gain a foothold in the region.

Almost half of the Syrian population is now displaced with more than 7.6 million internally displaced people and as many as 3 million refugees in neighboring countries, the UN says.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Aralık 2014, 16:05