Regime-opposition talks planned in Moscow to end Syria crisis

Regime-opposition talks planned in Moscow to end Syria crisis
Groups opposed to the Syrian regime say they have not yet received invitations to meet with representatives of Damascus slated for 20 January.
4 min read
28 December, 2014
Opposition groups have been fighting the Syrian regime and the IS group [Anadolu-Getty]


The Syrian opposition has asked for "genuine international guarantees" if it agrees to begin dialogue with the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

This follows reports in the Syrian state news agency, SANA, that the foreign ministry in Damascus is ready to attend a meeting with opposition groups due to be held in Moscow on 20 January.

Hadi al-Bahra, head of the Syrian National Coalition for the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "We had earlier held a dialogue with the regime at Geneva II, and we continue to call for the activation of the dialogue mechanisms in a manner that guarantees the interests of the Syrian people."

"The dialogue, however, must be based on clear mechanisms and programmes, as well as a true international sponsorship."

Cairo talks 

SANA's announcement coincided with separate meetings in Cairo between a National Coalition delegation led by Al-Bahra, the Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

A member of the National Coalition delegation present in the meetings at the Arab League HQ said it was suggested all parties in the Syrian opposition could be united first through a national conference.

There has been no date given for this conference.

"There was also a discussion about the UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura's plan (to freeze fighting around Aleppo) and the extent to which the UN is serious about supporting the plan. There was also a discussion of the conditions set by the regime, which the National Coalition's delegation rejected," the source said.  

Preferring to remain anonymous, the source said that during a second meeting with Shoukry, the two sides discussed Moscow's call on the opposition to meet with representatives of the Syrian regime.

"They touched upon the guarantees that Russia might offer if this dialogue is held. They also discussed the issue of visas for Syrians to enter Egypt and problems related to the Syrian community there."

Roadmap to talks

The source also revealed that discussions took place on an idea put forward about talks during a previous meeting between officials in the Egyptian foreign ministry and opposition groups, including those inside Syria.

Bahiya Mardini, a media adviser to the National Coalition, had published details of what she says is the Egyptian document presented to the Syrian opposition parties who had visited Cairo.

The document stated that direct negotiations will be held between an opposition and regime delegations.

Each delegation would include representatives of Syrian civil society, and the two delegations must have full powers to negotiate and reach agreements on behalf of their organisations.

The talks would be sponsored by the UN and certain Arab, regional, and international countries.

"The negotiation must take off from what has been accomplished so far, that is, from the Geneva agreement and the UNSC resolutions pertaining to the Syrian crisis," the text read.

"The political objective of the direct negotiation process is to move toward a multiparty, democratic system based on alternation in power and the principle of equality in rights and duties for all Syrian citizens."

Mardini told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the document was presented to members of the Syrian opposition who visited Cairo recently and that she has already been contacted by the Turkish government about the issue.

Waiting in vain?

Mouath al-Khatib, the former National Coalition president, said that the Cairo meetings have the potential to pave the way for subsequent meetings. He said that he had not received any invitation to attend the talks in Cairo.

Captain Islam Alloush, an official spokesman for the Islamic Front, and Mohammed Abu-Uday, spokesman for Jaysh al-Ummah (Army of the Muslim Nation) said their factions support "a political solution that achieves the demands of the Syrian people".

Both spokesmen said that they had not been contacted about Russia's efforts to bring the opposition and Syrian regime together.

Abu-Uday said, "[We] believe that a political solution must lead to the departure of al-Assad's regime, because it is the main reason for the huge destruction in Syria, not to mention the killing of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions of Syrians."

The Islamic Front is a coalition of Islamist and Salafist groups opposed to Assad. It is not part of the Syrian National Coalition and has been one of the largest rebel outfits fighting the Syrian regime forces and the Islamic State group.  

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.