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Syrian Opposition: Regime Withdrawal from Geneva Talks Embarrasses Moscow

Syrian Opposition: Regime Withdrawal from Geneva Talks Embarrasses Moscow

Tuesday, 5 December, 2017 - 11:00
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura meets Syrian opposition delegation members attending the opening of a new round of peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland. (Reuters)

Spokesman for the Syrian opposition delegation at the Geneva talks said that the regime’s withdrawal from the negotiations last week was an embarrassment to Russia.

“I don’t think that those who support the regime are happy with such a position being taken by the regime. This is an embarrassment to Russia,” Yehya al-Aridi said on Monday at the hotel where the opposition delegation is staying in Geneva.

“We understand the Russian position now. They are... in a hurry to find a solution.”

The delegation left the UN-backed talks in Geneva on Friday, blaming the opposition’s demands that regime leader Bashar Assad should play no role in any interim post-war government.

There was no immediate comment from Russian officials at the talks on the withdrawal of the regime delegation.

Russia helped to turn the Syrian war in Assad’s favor and has become the key force in the push for a diplomatic solution. Last month Russian President Vladimir Putin said a political settlement should be finalized within the UN Geneva process.

The opposition, long wary of Russia’s role, now accepts it. Western diplomats say Putin’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev was present at the Riyadh meeting last month where the opposition drew up its statement rejecting any future role for Assad.

Asked if the opposition was willing to compromise on Assad’s role in any post-war government, Aridi said his delegation’s demands were based on the wishes of the Syrian people, reported Reuters.

“I believe that our mere presence in Geneva is in itself a compromise. We are sitting with a regime that has been carrying out all these atrocities for the past seven years. What other compromise could we make?”

A source close to the regime delegation told Reuters on Monday that Damascus was still studying the feasibility of participation in the talks and when a decision was reached it would be sent through ordinary diplomatic channels.

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