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Russian diplomat calls talks with Syrian opposition 'constructive'

March 01, 21:52 updated at: March 02, 0:47 UTC+3

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov believes it is impossible to form a single Syrian opposition delegation so far

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© REUTERS/Majed Jaber

GENEVA, March 1. /TASS/. Russia and the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) have common understanding over further steps needed to resolve the Syria crisis, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Wednesday after his consultations with participants of the intra-Syrian talks in the Swiss capital.

"The meeting was constructive. There is common understanding that we need to move ahead in resolving the Syria crisis," Gatilov said, adding that Russian diplomats will not meet with opposition in Geneva in coming days. "We will not meet with the opposition again, as everything is clear now," he said. The diplomat did not rule out new meetings with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on March 2 in Geneva.

New rounds of talks in Geneva and Astana, with the aim to resolve the Syria crisis, are under consideration. "These issues are under consideration. Meetings both in Astana and Geneva are possible," he said. "However, a new round (of talks) in Geneva should be announced by (UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan) de Mistura."

External players should exert influence on Syrian opposition for ceasefire to hold, he went on. 

"Russia is taking every measure possible (to ensure it) and is working with the Syrian government," he said. "However, external countries, which have influence on the opposition and conduct military operations in Syria, should act in the same way."

Merging the delegations of the Syrian opposition in Geneva is impossible so far, the diplomat said.

"So far this is unattainable," he said. "The opposition is represented in Geneva by several groups."

Gatilov noted that Russia urged representatives of the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to form a single opposition delegation together with other participants in the negotiation process. "We told them that the HNC is an important player in the negotiation process, but not the only one, because there are other opposition platforms too, such as the Moscow and Cairo, which are in Geneva. I felt, however, that so far there is no desire and confidence that this can be achieved," he added.

Syrian sides ready to discuss all the issues concurrently, including war on terror, he said, adding that negotiating sides refer to Russia's part in launch of Syrian political process.

"All the interlocutors, we were talking to, have repeatedly underscored the key role of Russia in the launch of negotiation process and emphasized that ‘Geneva’ has become possible thanks to what happened in Astana," he said.

"Astana’ (talks) have become like a bridge to ‘Geneva’ and largely inspired the UN and Mr. (Staffan) de Mistura (UN special envoy for Syria) to begin the negotiation process in Geneva," he added.

"(Representatives) of the HNC raised the issue of ceasefire violations trying to present the matter in such a way that the Syrian troops have allegedly stepped up military operations," he noted. "In response to that, they were given factual information showing that there are much more ceasefire violations by the opposition than by the government troops."

"We got the impression that they just do not have all information that exists on the ground," Gatilov said. "That was why we openly offered them to continue contacts on the matter, as there is hard evidence that, in actual fact, the situation does not correspond to the way they see it."

"Therefore, from that point of view, the meeting (with the HNC) was useful," he added.

On February 27, Gatilov arrived in Geneva to attend the High-Level Segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council. Along with this, he held consultations with participants of the intra-Syrian talks. The Russian diplomat met twice with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and with Syria’s Ambassador to UN Bashar Jaafari, the head of government delegation, as well. Also, he had separate meetings with each opposition group attending at the Geneva talks - so-called ‘Moscow,’ ‘Cairo’ and ‘Riyadh’ groups.

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