A Syrian opposition group that is close to Russia and tolerated by Damascus will meet UN envoy Staffan de Mistura at peace talks in Geneva, a delegation member told AFP Wednesday.
“We received an invitation to take part in the Geneva talks,” said Fateh Jamous, a member of the so-called Moscow Group, which includes ex-Syrian deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil who is considered a moderate opposition leader by the regime.
Jamil, who was sacked by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2013, was in Geneva for an earlier round of talks that collapsed in February but did not meet with de Mistura at the time.
“Our invitation is proof that the talks have entered a new, more serious stage,” Jamous said.
The Saudi-based High Negotiations Committee (HNC), more hardline than the pro-Russia group, has insisted that it be considered the only representative of Syria’s opposition at the talks.
HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet told AFP on Tuesday that expanding the number of opposition delegations was “unacceptable”.
Assad’s fate is seen as the main obstacle to any deal in Geneva, with the HNC insisting that the Syrian leader must go before any transitional government is agreed.
Jamous charged the HNC with imposing “conditions that we consider contradictory to the principle of consensus, including the condition of the president’s departure.”
“We will present to de Mistura our vision of the transitional period, which cannot happen without consensus from all sides,” he added.