MOSCOW, January 17, /ITAR-TASS/. Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov will meet with Walid Muallem, Deputy Chairman of Syria's Council of Ministers and Foreign Minister, here on Friday. The situation in the Syrian Arab Republic with emphasis on preparation for a Geneva-2 international conference on Syria is expected to be the main theme of the forthcoming talks.
Earlier, on Thursday, a three-sided meeting was held here with the participation of Lavrov, Muallem, as well as Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who is also in Moscow. According to some data, Zarif and Muallem arrived in the Russian capital in one plane from Damascus where Zarif had held talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad. An official communique circulated as a result of that meeting pointed out that the fight against extremists and terrorists operating in the territories of Syria and other Middle East countries was the main subject of discussion at the meeting. The top-level consultations in a searchc for ways towards surmounting the crisis were continued in Moscow where on Thursday Zarif was received by Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the same day Lavrov had a separate meeting with his Iranian counterpart.
The talks in Moscow are held against the background of finalization of preparations for a Geneva-2 conference which is due to begin in the Swiss city of Montreux on January 22. The sides did not manage to settle a number of issues connected with the holding of the conference, including a list of participants in the meeting. Specifically, one of the largest organizations of Syrian opposition abroad -- the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces -- has not confirmed so far its participation in the conference. A decisions on the issue is expected to be made on January 17 at a meeting of representatives of the movement in Istanbul.
Late on Thursday night, there appeared reports referring to Lakhdar Brahimi, joint special representative of the UN and the League of Arab States, that the National Coordination Committee, the major association of Syria's internal opposition, had refused to participate in the conference. The question of representation at the conference of some countries which have influence on the situation in the Middle East has not been settled either. This refers primarily to Iran. Russia repeatedly emphasized that, since Iran plays an important role there, its participation in the Geneva-2 is highly desirable. The United States, however, declares that for the US to take part in the conference, Tehran should specially reaffirm its commitment to the principles of the Geneva communique, dated June 30, 2011. An invitation to Iran has not been sent out so far.