Russia Pushes For Peace Talks to End Syrian Crisis

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria (Photo Internet)

As Russia pushes to broker a political solution to the crisis in Syria, Syrian government and members of the country’s fragmented opposition could hold talks in Moscow next week.

Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov saying “Next week, we will invite opposition representatives to a consultation in Moscow,” .

“The meeting … will possibly be with the participation of government representatives,” he said.

After initially dismissing Syrian opposition groups fighting its regional ally President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow has shown increasing flexibility as it steps up diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict that has killed some 250,000 and displaced millions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss attempts to start a dialogue between Damascus and the Syrian opposition, Moscow’s foreign ministry said.

At international peace talks in Vienna on Friday, Moscow said it wanted opposition groups to participate in future discussions to resolve the Syrian crisis and exchanged a list of 38 names with Saudi Arabia.

The list included mostly former and current members of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNC), Syria’s Western-backed political opposition block, Kommersant newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Among those named were former SNC head Moaz al-Khatib and incumbent president Khaled Khoja, as well as representatives from a diverse range of political, religious and ethnic groups including the Muslim Brotherhood and a Christian pro-democracy movement.

Khoja said last week a Russian campaign of air strikes in Syria was intended to prop up Assad and had helped Islamic State militants who have taken control of large swathes of the country.

The SNC has been accused of slipping into virtual irrelevance on the battlefield in Syria as Islamist and Kurdish groups have grown stronger. But it remains one of the main parties in international discussions to end the four-year-old civil war.

The coalition boycotted Syria peace talks held in Russia in January and April, distrustful of the Kremlin and dismissing Damascus rivals who attended as token opposition, but it sent a delegation to Moscow in August.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday it was inappropriate to link Russia’s military strategy in Syria with the results of an investigation into an airplane crash in Egypt over the weekend in which over 200 people died.

Parts From Reuters

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