Moscow Tells Syria Opposition to Cooperate

Moscow Sees Syrian Opposition as Blocking Talks

Moscow has been trying to gain the Syrian opposition’s cooperation, saying that the Syrian National Coalition has been doing everything in their power to stall talks. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, opposition figures who make up the Western-backed opposition group in Syria have declined to participate in negotiations with the Syrian government in Moscow, presenting the latest hurdle in the struggle to bring the two sides together for a peace resolution.

Alexander Lukaschevich, the ministry spokesperson, said that the Syrian National Coalition, or SNC, are doing everything they can to block and halt the talks in Moscow from moving forward. The SNC had requested a precondition that President Bashar al-Assad relinquish his power to a transitional Syrian government prior to the talks in Geneva.

Bashar al-Assad remains defiant, calling the preconditions “unnecessary”, and refuses to step down as leader of Syria.

The Syrian government says Bashar al-Assad will remain in power until his term naturally expires in 2014. They went as far as saying he might even run for re-election.

According to Kamal Labwani, an opposition figure, the SNC has refused to participate in the peace negotiations, because they see Moscow as a player in the war, saying their involvement in the talks as a conflict of interest. Citing Moscow’s continued support of the Syrian government despite Bashar al-Assad’s forces continuing one of the blooidest civil wars in recent memory, Labwani said “Russia is not a fair mediator and is part of the conflict.” Labwani continued by saying “When Russia wants to support the criminal, it will lose.”

Such a hardline stance against Bashar al-Assad’s government has produced difficulties for negotiators in Moscow who have done almost all they can to get the Syrian opposition to Cooperate. U.S. officials are urging the SNC to be active participants in the talks and to leave their preconditions at the door.

The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson commented on the situation, saying how it is “unfortunate” that the SNC and opposition figures are playing “counterproductive” roles, blocking any chance of resolving the conflict peacefully in Moscow.

Meanwhile Bashar al-Assad has been surprisingly cooperative, allowing foreign inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, to inspect and dismantle almost all of Syria’s declared chemical weapon facilities and material. The OPCW claims 21 out of the 23 known chemical weapon facilities in Syria were inspected, and assured that the contents of the remaining two were moved off site and properly disposed of. The OPCW received a Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts earlier this year.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the SNC’s latest move in Moscow as “intransigent”, saying that the SNC’s mandate is limited to a small number of Syrians, and doesn’t represent the whole of the Syrian people.

Although the talks in Moscow were centered around the humanitarian aspect of the Syrian war, observers say the ability to bring the two sides together at the same table would present a diplomatic breakthrough in and of itself.

The international community’s efforts to bring the Syrian war to an end includes covering all sides of the issue- humanitarian, militarily, diplomatically, etc. Denmark said on Friday that they would be willing to ship Syria’s chemical weapons out of the country by sea to ensure that the weapons are no longer a threat to the Syrian people.

The U.N. estimates that over 120,000 people have been killed since the fighting began in 2011.

by John Amaruso

ABC News
Washington Post
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