Middle East

Syria opposition to hold talks with Russia

The Celestial Sphere sculpture is seen under snow at the United Nations offices on January 29, 2014 in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI

GENEVA: Syria's opposition plans to hold talks with Russia, a long-time ally of their nation's regime, a spokeswoman said Wednesday amid U.N.-brokered peace talks between the warring sides.

"There is a plan to meet with officials in Moscow, but we have not confirmed the dates," Rafif Jouejati, spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees activist network told AFP in Geneva, where Syrian government and opposition negotiators were into their fifth day of closed-door talks.

Russia was already a key ally of the regime of President Bashar Assad before Syria's civil war broke out in 2011, with strong trade ties and a key Mediterranean naval base in the country.

With the opposition backed strongly by the United States, an agreement between Washington and Moscow last year paved the way for the peace talks in Geneva.

"Members of the opposition for the past almost three years have been speaking to Russian officials both formally and informally," said Jouejati.

"I think certainly there has been an easing in the Russian position on Syria. Russian officials have repeatedly said that they are not wedded to Assad," she added.

The goal of the current Geneva talks is to finally implement calls for a political transition in Syria, made at an international summit in the Swiss city in 2012.

"I think going forward as we do move with transition -- if we can move with transition -- certainly Russia's going to be a key player and so that dialogue will be kept open," said Jouejati.





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