MOSCOW, January 24. /ITAR-TASS/. The departure of Syrian opposition leader Ahmed al-Jarba has not been sudden for Russian representatives, presidential special envoy for the Middle East, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Friday.
“The departure wasn’t sudden. We heard American partners and other partners to say al-Jarba to lead the opposition delegation. The talks should be held at the level of deputies delegation head, i.e. at the expert level. So, we knew that al-Jarba would lead the opposition delegation in Geneva,” the Russian diplomat said.
Commenting on the format of the Geneva talks, the diplomat said, “The first stage of the talks will last for a week. Then the delegations may return to Damascus and report the leadership on the results. Afterwards they return back.”
“Our representatives, particularly Russian permanent representative to the U.N. and other international organizations Alexei Borodavkin, stayed in Switzerland. There are also our experts, who will maintain contacts with Brahimi and other delegations,” he said.
Answering a question if the opposition delegation can refuse to take part in the talks due to al-Jarba’s departure, Bogdanov said he did not rule out that any party “can stop the talks. This is on anyone’s conscience”.
“We discussed with Lakhdar Brahimi and American partners that other opposition groups would join the talks. Maybe, this will happen not at once. Maybe, the groups will join the talks on the second stage - during the second round of talks,” he said, adding “It is not ruled out that others will arrive.”
An invitation “was sent to the opposition as a whole. One variant was sent to Ahmed al-Jarba and the copy was sent to leader of the opposition coordinating committee in Damascus Hassan Abdul Aziz”, the Russian diplomat said.
“Aziz was displeased with the fact that he had received a copy. Many people disliked this because disrespect had been shown,” he added.
Speaking about a new invitation, Bogdanov said, “It was sent while the talks opening. The inter-Syrian talks will start today. I believe that Brahimi can maintain contacts with any opposition groups under an agreement with us and the Americans.”
The inter-Syrian dialogue should be inclusive and involve the government, the opposition and the Syrian society to yield maximum results and satisfy all parties, he said.