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Representative of Syrian overseas opposition refuses to take part in meeting in Moscow

January 10, 2015, 4:08 UTC+3 BEIRUT

Al Khatib was one of the 28 opposition leaders who had been invited to take part in the intra-Syrian dialogue

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© AP Photo/Diaa Hadid

BEIRUT, January 10. /TASS/. Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, a leading representative of the Syrian opposition and the former leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces has refused to take part in a Moscow meeting with the delegation of the Syrian government scheduled for late January.

He announced his decision on Friday, the Al Arabiya television channel reported. Al Khatib was one of the 28 opposition leaders who had been invited to take part in the intra-Syrian dialogue.

“We decided to refrain from the trip to Moscow, since conditions we deemed as necessary for a successful meeting have not been ensured,” he said, providing no further details.

Earlier, Khaled Khoja, who had been elected the new leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces in Istanbul on January 5, said he would not take part in the talks. He warned that those members of the coalition who dared to go to Russia on their own would be expelled.

In November 2014, al-Khatib visited Moscow along with other opponents of Syrian Presidet Bashar Assad. He and the leaders of the internal opposition, Hassan Abdul Azim and Qadri Jamil, would lead a delegation that was supposed to get in contact with the Syrian government with an eye of resuming the dialogue suspended a year ago in Geneva.

Opposition groups inside Syria agreed to come to Moscow “without preliminary conditions.” Preliminary consultations in Moscow will be held, regardless of whether the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces take part or not, Munzer Haddam, a representative of the National Coordination Committee, said, adding that the National Coordination Committee was not setting Bashar Assad’s resignation as a condition for dialogue.

Meanwhile, the Syrian foreign ministry confirmed the readiness of the government delegation “to take part in the Moscow consultations with all who defend the country’s sovereignty, its unity and independent choice.” “Such a meeting aiming to prepare a conference on dialogue meets the hopes of the Syrian people for a peace settlement of the crisis and its striving for putting an end to bloodshed, restoring security and stability in the country,” official Damascus said.

In early December 2014, Russian president’s Middle East and Africa envoy and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in Beirut Russia was ready “to offer Moscow as a venue for contacts between Syrians.”

“We call these contacts consultative and preparatory, and this means the sides will refrain from putting forward any preconditions. Also, there won’t be any prearranged agenda,” he said. “If the Syrian partners display willingness for this then we hope we’ll organize the meetings as fast as we can and, quite possibly, by the end of January 2015.”

According to the Syrian newspaper Al-Watan, preliminary consultations between opposition forces may be held in Moscow on January 25-26. The first round on contacts with members of the government delegation is scheduled for January 27.

The Geneva Communique was adopted on June 30, 2012 at a conference of an “action group” on Syria in Geneva. That conference is now commonly referred to as “Geneva-1.”

Its logical continuation, an international peace conference on Syria, dubbed Geneva-2, organized by Russia and the United States, kicked off on January 22, 2014 in Montreux, Switzerland. The conference sought to negotiate a solution to the Syrian crisis. No particular progress was reported after two rounds in January and February 2014. The parties to the Syrian conflict agreed to continue their discussions.

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