Last updated: 20 August, 2015

Syria’s tolerated opposition due in Moscow for talks

Representatives of the Syrian domestic opposition tolerated by Damascus will jet in to Moscow for talks on Sunday as Russia makes a fresh diplomatic push to end the Syrian conflict.

The delegation — led by Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar, who hails from the opposition — is expected to meet with Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov on Monday, the ministry said.

“Contacts for the settlement of the Syrian conflict are continuing,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told AFP.

The Syrian visit comes as Russia — one of the few remaining allies of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad — has renewed diplomatic efforts to find a way out of the four-year civil war that has claimed some 240,000 lives.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently hosted meetings with his Saudi and Iranian counterparts, as well as the head of Syria’s main exiled opposition group, the National Coalition.

Moscow is pushing a plan for a broader grouping than the current US-led coalition to fight the Islamic State (IS) group, which would include Syria’s government and its allies.

Assad’s opponents have rejected the idea.

Russia says it does not support Assad personally but backs the legitimate Syrian president and that his departure must not be a prerequisite for launching a peace process.

The Syrian opposition and some regional powers, including Saudi Arabia, believe that Assad must step down immediately for there to be any hope of reconciliation.

For the first time in two years, the UN Security Council this week agreed to a political statement on Syria, backing a push for Syrian peace talks after widespread condemnation of regime air strikes that killed nearly 100 people.

Moscow has already hosted several rounds of talk between the Syrian regime and opposition groups tolerated by Damascus but they failed to make any headway, as other Assad opponents stayed away.