Syria opposition mulls Russia dialogue offer

National Coalition chief tells Al Jazeera that opposition is open to dialogue but will not travel to Moscow for talks.

    Syria opposition mulls Russia dialogue offer
    Invitation is in the hands of Ahmad Mouaz al-Khatib, head of National Coalition, says Russian diplomat [Reuters]

    Russia, one of the few powers to maintain links with the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, has proposed negotiations with the main opposition coalistion, but the group's leader told Al Jazeera they will not travel to Moscow for talks.

    Sergey Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, told a news conference on Friday that Russia has contacted the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces through the Russian Embassy in Egypt and "we expressed readiness to conduct a meeting" with coalition leader Ahmad Mouaz al-Khatib.

    Lavrov, speaking after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr, said Russia was also urging Assad's regime to make efforts toward a political settlement.

    Russia's talks with National Coalition head could take place in Moscow or a foreign location like Geneva or Cairo, Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, told the RIA Novosti news agency.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera, Khatib said the opposition was open to talks but would not travel to Moscow. He also demanded from Russia a "clear condemnation of the crimes committed by the Syrian regime".

    Russia has so far strongly criticised moves by Western and anti-Assad Arab states to recognise the National Coalition as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people since the group was formed last month.

    Yet Russia is also involved in a frantic round of year-end diplomacy seeking to end the crisis.

    Syria has been a longtime ally of Russia, hosting Russia's only naval base outside the former Soviet Union and remaining a significant customer for Russia's arms industry.

    'Real change'

    Russia appears to be slowly distancing itself from Assad. Putin last week said that Russia is "not preoccupied that much with the fate of the Assad regime" and "undoubtedly there is a call for changes".

    Bogdanov said he expected there to be a new three-way meeting between UN-Arab League Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and US and Russian representatives on the Syrian crisis in January.

    Brahimi on Thursday called for a "real change" in Syria and the installation of a transitional government with full powers until elections can be held.

    "We need to form a government with all powers ... which assumes power during a period of transition. That transition period will end with elections," Brahimi told reporters.

    He did not specify a date for the envisaged elections, either presidential or parliamentary depending on what could be agreed. He also made no mention on the fate of Assad, whose current term expires in 2014.

    "We prefer... a project whose facilitation the parties have agreed upon, and, if they do not, the last solution is going to the [UN] Security Council which will make a binding resolution."

    Brahimi, who while in Damascus has held talks with Assad as well as with opposition groups tolerated by the regime, replaced former UN chief Kofi Annan after his dramatic resignation in August over what he said was the failure of major powers to back his own six-point peace plan.

    A diplomat at the UN Security Council said on Wednesday the veteran Algerian troubleshooter had received no support from either side since arriving in Syria on Sunday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    The woman who cleans up after 'lonely deaths' in Japan

    The woman who cleans up after 'lonely deaths' in Japan

    When somebody dies lonely and alone, Miyu Kojima steps in to clean their home and organise the mementos of their life.

    Putin and the 'triumph of Christianity' in Russia

    Putin and the 'triumph of Christianity' in Russia

    The rise of the Orthodox Church in Russia appears unstoppable, write filmmakers Glen Ellis and Viktoryia Kolchyna who went to investigate the close ties between the church and Putin.

    The chill effect: Is India's media running scared?

    The chill effect: Is India's media running scared?

    Much of India's media spurns a scoop about the son of PM Modi's right-hand man. Plus, NFL as platform for race politics.