Last updated: 20 November, 2014

Syrian team and Putin to discuss relaunching peace talks

A high-level Syrian delegation is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss a possible relaunch of peace talks with the opposition, a senior Syrian official said Thursday.

“President Putin will receive the delegation headed by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, and the meeting will centre on the relaunch of negotiations,” he said of the talks next Wednesday with the key Damascus ally.

“The fact that Putin is receiving the delegation immediately shows the importance he’s putting on this visit, because meetings in Moscow are usually held with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov,” the source told AFP.

Waddah Abed Rabbo, editor-in-chief of Al-Watan daily, which is close to the regime, said the meeting “will revolve around ideas proposed by Moscow to bring together the state and ‘an opposition’ and initiate a first dialogue.”

According to Al-Watan, Russia aims to convene a “Syrian-to-Syrian dialogue” in Moscow involving “independent” members of the exiled Syrian National Council coalition alongside the regime’s tolerated domestic opposition.

Figures such as ex-SNC leader Moaz al-Khatib, who held talks at the Russian foreign ministry on November 7, would be included, it said.

Al-Watan said the plan could result in a transitional government including “independent” opposition figures, a legislative election in early 2016 and even a new constitution.

Abed Rabbo, for his part, said the idea would be to revive the so-called Geneva process that started with peace talks in the city in summer 2012.

A second round of UN-brokered talks in Switzerland was held in early 2013, but ended with no agreement.

“It is not a Russian plan for the moment; it’s just ideas to relaunch the process,” Abed Rabbo said.

“They must be discussed with the Syrians before the establishment of a plan to be endorsed by the United Nations,” he said.

The Syrian delegation to Moscow will also include presidential advisor Buthaina Shaaban and Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad.