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Russian diplomat notes split in Syrian opposition forces after Astana talks

Attempts to postpone a new round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva are inadmissible, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman stresses
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova  Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova
© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

MOSCOW, February 3. /TASS/. A part of Syria’s "moderate opposition" is requesting protection from the Ahrar al-Sham grouping in the fight against the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization (outlawed in Russia), Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday.

"After the Astana meeting [on January 23-24], a split occurred in the ranks of anti-government armed formations," the diplomat said.

"Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists attempted massive attacks on the units of the armed opposition, which had sent their representatives to Astana. In this situation, a part of the so-called moderates requested protection from Ahrar al-Sham as the strongest grouping, which is seeking neutrality in the conflict of al-Nusra with the supporters of the Astana meeting," the spokeswoman said.

"Meanwhile, the gangs whose chieftains are set on continuing the armed struggle with the government have started to actively pledge allegiance to Jabhat al-Nusra," Zakharova said.

In order to unite its supporters, the al-Nusra has created a new structure - the United Liberation of the Levant - whose militants have engaged in the fighting against Ahrar al-Sham, the Russian diplomat said.

Intra-Syrian talks

Attempts to postpone a new round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva are inadmissible, Zakharova went on.

"We fully support the resolute intentions of [UN special envoy for Syria Staffan] de Mistura to resume the intra-Syrian contacts in Geneva and consider attempts to postpone or delay them inadmissible," Zakharova told reporters.

The diplomat said some members of Syria’s political and armed opposition have attempted to forestall the outcome of the UN-brokered Geneva talks scheduled for February 20. "Again we hear ultimatum-like preconditions set by the opposition members for their arrival in Geneva."

They have also demanded apology from de Mistura for his statement on the plans to form the opposition delegation himself if the representatives fail to do that by February 8, Zakharova added.

Zakharova stressed that the UN special envoy should make all efforts to launch the negotiations, adding that "it is important not to miss the current moment of ceasefire."

Many opposition forces, subjected to external pressure, are pursuing the policy of disrupting the Geneva talks, she added. "We will do our utmost to encourage the UN colleagues by all available means to intensify the process," the diplomat stated.