Talks between the Syrian government and members of the tolerated opposition dragged on Thursday in Moscow with little sign of concrete progress towards ending the conflict in the country.
Opposition activist Mays al-Kridi said that the two sides appeared “almost certain” to ink a vague “plan of some eight or nine points” calling for a political process to resolve the fighting.
“In Syria it is a time of bloodshed. We have to move faster and to make compromises,” Kridi said.
However the potential signing of the document appeared to offer little hope of a breakthrough towards ending the war, given the absence of main Western-backed exiled Syrian opposition National Coalition from the talks.
Earlier talks in Moscow in January yielded a similar document that had no impact on the fighting on the ground.
Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar al-Jaafari, who has headed the government delegation at the talks that started Monday, is supposed to give a press conference Thursday but that was rescheduled to Friday.
Members of the opposition National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC) were also scheduled to hold a press conference Friday.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier urged Syrians to take responsibility for ending the conflict in their country as he opened a meeting between the two sides.
“Developments in and around Syria require urgent measures to ensure the country’s protection from terrorist aggression and to restore its unity,” Lavrov said.
– Opposition squabbles –
Moscow’s latest attempt to bring government and opposition together comes amid continuing strikes by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, with Canada on Wednesday sending two F-18s to target IS positions near the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Opposition activists at the talks in Moscow told AFP earlier Friday that the negotiations with Damascus were being hampered by squabbling between the opposition representatives.
Analysts said the meeting was designed to help Russia — a firm ally of the Assad regime — bolster its profile as a peace broker in the region.
The opposition National Coalition accused Russia of seeking to use the talks to bolster Assad, and declined to attend.
Most of Syria’s opposition in exile has made it clear that Assad must step down in any deal to end the conflict that began with demonstrations against his rule in March 2011.
An Arab diplomat following the developments had told AFP that a proposal now being floated would see Assad stay in power for two or three more years to prepare a transition, given Russian and US fears about the consequences if his regime collapsed suddenly.
The window for any such agreement is fairly small, with Washington reportedly insisting that any deal be signed before campaigning for the 2016 presidential election begins in earnest in the autumn.