The Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces refused on Friday to take part in an informal meeting with Syrian government officials in Moscow aimed at resolving the current humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.
Russia had earlier proposed to host informal peace talks involving all political forces in the Syrian civil war to establish dialogue between the warring parties ahead of an upcoming peace conference on Syria in Geneva.
“Regrettably, the National Coalition and certain leaders who consider this idea counterproductive have blocked this initiative and refused to attend such a meeting,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said at a news briefing in Moscow.
The rejection came despite Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov saying Thursday that the opposition had “responded positively” to a proposal for such talks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that the date of the Geneva conference could not be coordinated because the Syrian opposition had put forward certain preconditions, including that Syrian President Bashar Assad would step down and forgo participation in a transitional government.
“This intransigence and these demands are being asserted by the National Coalition, which claims to be the only representative of the Syrian people, but which doesn’t represent even a majority of the groups opposing Assad’s regime,” Lavrov said.
The Geneva peace conference, backed by Russia and the United States, is expected to take place by the end of this year. The Assad regime has voiced its willingness to attend the conference without any preconditions.
The conference is meant to bring government officials and the opposition to the negotiating table in hopes of ending the 2 1/2-year-long conflict, which has cost at least 100,000 lives, according to UN figures.