Syrian Groups Divided Over Moscow Peace Talks

Announcement by Popular Front of Change and Liberation to attend came a day after leading opposition politician Mouaz Al-Khatib declined to go to Moscow.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (L) gives a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on September 9, 2013 following a meeting in Moscow.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (L) gives a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on September 9, 2013 following a meeting in Moscow.Credit: AFP

A Syrian opposition group announced yesterday it will attend a proposed peace conference in Moscow later this month, further highlighting the splits between those opposing President Bashar Assad’s government amid the country’s grinding civil war.

The announcement by the Popular Front of Change and Liberation of former Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, which called the talks “a glimmer of hope,” came a day after leading opposition politician Mouaz Al-Khatib declined to go to Moscow.

Al-Khatib, the former president of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, said in a statement posted on his Facebook page Friday that he turned down the Russian invitation because there could be no talks with the government “without releasing detainees, especially women and children.”

“The circumstances that we believe are necessary to make the meeting successful are not available,” he said.

On Thursday, the Damascus-based Building the Syrian State party of imprisoned politician Louay Hussein also said it would not participate in the Moscow talks. Last week, the Syrian National Coalition elected Khalid Khoja as its new leader, who said that his group is not yet willing to go to Moscow.

The opposition’s conflicting decisions make it unclear whether anything will come of the Russian proposal to hold talks after January 20. Assad’s government had said it is prepared to participate.

Russia is a staunch ally of Assad. The Western-backed Syrian opposition has insisted that any negotiated settlement include the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers, a demand rejected by Assad’s government.

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