Russia invites Syrian opposition to Moscow for talks

Last Updated: Tue, Nov 19, 2013 02:30 hrs

Moscow, Nov 19 (IANS) Russia has invited Syrian opposition groups to Moscow for talks to bridge their differences on the planned Geneva peace conference, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.

Leaders of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Coalition (SNC) " did not refuse to come to Moscow, and they are studying our proposal," reported Xinhua citing Lavrov during a news briefing.

He also confirmed that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held talks with the SNC leaders in Istanbul last week.

Russia's mediation is to help the Syrian opposition to form a single delegation to the talks, which the US and Russia are trying to convene in Geneva by the end of the year, Lavrov said.

The proposed meeting is to "consolidate positive trends," which included negotiations which have begun between the SNC, one of Kurdish groups and the so-called "internal opposition," about finding common approaches to the peace talks.

"We welcome these processes," Lavrov said.

Also Monday, a Syrian government delegation arrived in Moscow for talks with Lavrov and other Russian senior diplomats.

Earlier Monday, Lavrov said that the timing of the Geneva-II meeting depended on "how well our Western partners do their homework of persuading the opposition to reject preconditions".

The SNC has confirmed it is willing to attend the peace conference, but insists that President Bashar al-Assad can play no role in any transitional period.

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