A key opposition group tolerated by Syria’s regime is still studying whether to accept a Russian invitation to talks this month with government officials, dissident figure Haytham Mannaa said Wednesday.
The exiled National Coalition and leading opposition figure, Moaz al-Khatib, have already announced they will skip the talks that are aimed at finding a political solution to end Syria’s nearly four-year war.
Moscow’s effort to host the talks comes after two failed bids last year to bring regime and opposition representatives to the negotiating table in Geneva.
Russia is the most powerful backer of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The talks are slated for January 26 to 29.
“We have sent several questions to the Russian foreign ministry, about the conditions for success of the Moscow meeting, and we are waiting for a reply,” Mannaa told AFP.
“Russia must ensure certain conditions are met in order to guarantee success,” said the Geneva-based member of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC).
“The Syrian opposition is not represented well enough, and more opposition movements need to be invited.”
Mannaa said the Communist Labour Party and the Democratic Socialist Arab Baath Party should also be invited to Moscow.
NCCDC spokesman Monzer Khaddam said the group expected to hear back from Moscow on Friday.
“The executive bureau will hold a meeting on Saturday (in Damascus) to reach a conclusion about the talks,” he told AFP.
Another movement, Building the Syrian State, will not attend the talks.
Its leader, Louay Hussein, has been in a government jail since November last year.
The group’s deputy, Mona Ghanem, said the talks were already doomed to fail.
“We do not accept to give false hopes to the Syrian people,” Ghanem said, calling on Russia to “ensure a change, however small, in the (Syrian regime’s) position and methods”.
Ghanem said the authorities must “release the detainees and stop making arbitrary arrests”.
To date, only Majd Niazi, who heads the Syria the Nation Party — which works legally in the country — has publicly confirmed his group’s attendance.
Speaking to AFP on Wednesday, days after rejecting the Russian invitation, ex-coalition chief and key dissident figure Khatib said the conference would be fruitless.
“Let them hold their conference,” Khatib said, blasting regime-tolerated opponents who might attend as lacking both influence or independence.
“It is meaningless, as there is no representative for the Syrian revolution. Let them all go and talk in the name of the regime.”