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MOSCOW, September 29. /TASS/. Russia does not agree that moderators of working groups on Syria are proposed exclusively from NATO member states, Vitaly Naumkin of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences said on Tuesday.
Naumkin, who twice acted as moderator at intra-Syrian consultations in Moscow, told TASS: "Formation of four working groups under the mandate of the UN Security Council is now under way." But despite assurances from Syrian opposition leader Qadri Jamil that chairs of the groups had already been appointed, Naumkin noted that "not everything is all right there so far."
"In particular, it has not yet been decided who will lead these groups," he said, adding that the groups were expected to include many members.
Asked who will moderate the groups, Naumkin said "the issue is still under discussion", noting that Russia and its partners wanted to see there "neutral people", not only "representatives of great powers".
"But when neutral moderators are proposed exclusively from NATO countries, it is also not quite right," he said. "That's why no decision has been taken so far," he added.
At the same time, Naumkin confirmed reports about a meeting of an international contact group on Syria involving Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Turkey and Egypt next month. "Yes, it may take place in October," he said. "However, no exact date has been set yet."
Last week, Jamil, former deputy prime minister representing Syria's opposition Popular Front of Change and Liberation, met UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura. "I have very positive and optimistic impressions from the meeting. Serious work is under way in preparation for launching four working groups under the mandate of the UN Security Council," Jamil said, adding that the groups’ chairs had already been appointed, but that their composition had not yet been agreed.
"These are consultative groups that will highlight differences in order to reach agreement and facilitate organisation of Geneva 3," he said, referring to another United Nations-backed peace conference on Syria. Jamil expressed hope that the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition would be represented.
The UN has hosted two major conferences on Syria since 2011. The last brought together the government and representatives of the opposition. Those talks ended in failure early last year.