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24 Oct, 2013 02:44

Moscow slams 'Friends of Syria' for undermining Geneva peace talks

Moscow slams 'Friends of Syria' for undermining Geneva peace talks

Moscow has blamed the ‘Friends of Syria’ group for attempting to revise the key elements of the Geneva communique of 2012 and influence the outcome of the Geneva 2 conference.

"We have to state that contrary to previously held understandings on how to resolve the crisis in Syria the final document issued after the meeting attempts to revise the key elements of the 30 June 2012 Geneva communique," Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesman said in a statement. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry also asserted: “It is this document that has been recognized as the only platform to achieve a political settlement in Syria and has recently been approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2118.” 

The spokesman states that prior to London’s meeting of 11 foreign ministers of the ‘Friends of Syria’ group, Russia was told that “the discussions there will be held exclusively on the basis of the Geneva communique.” 

Moscow believes that the discussions violated the diplomatic effort and is seen as “an attempt to revise the communique according to the political needs [of the Syrian opposition]," to create a “regime change” in Damascus. Lukashevich also said that the London communique contained a "poorly hidden threat" of armed intervention in Syria. 

Lukashevich added that during the London conference, participants yet again put all the blame for chemical weapons use in Syria on the Assad government thus contradicting the UNSC resolution 2118. 

For its part, Russia is ready to help “settle the crisis in Syria on the basis of the Geneva Communique and the earlier reached understandings, including between Russia and the United States and through the participation of other permanent members of the Security Council and the UN Secretary General, in regard to steps needed to convene an international conference.” 

Former Pentagon official Michael Maloof believes that despite all the obstacles the talks are almost bound to go ahead as planned "notwithstanding internal difficulties that the Western powers are now having to get the opposition to come on in and be involved." 

"I think talks are going to have to take place," Maloof told RT. "I think the United States and Russia ultimately are going to determine what the outcome is going to be, and the other countries are going to be told to follow.”

AFP Photo / Huthaifa Al-Maaruf

Moscow believes that their Western partners have been trying to persuade Syrian opposition groups to take part in Geneva II talks under the National Coalition umbrella.

"There is an impression the London document is aimed to provoke Damascus to undermine Geneva 2 by drawing attention away from opposition to Syrian authorities," Lukashevich said. 

Russia insists that the National Coalition's representation in Geneva should be proportional to its political weight in Syria. 

“There is no evidence to suggest that the coalition is the sole legitimate representative of either all Syrian people or even the opposition as a whole.” 

Lukashevich concluded that the role the outside players should have is to persuade the conflicting Syrian parties to negotiate, but the final settlement should be reached without foreign pressure.

'The sultan must leave'

The 11 states that met in London on October 22 included Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, United States, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, and the UK. Statements coming out of the talks suggest a possible regime change. 

"We are clear that Syrian President Assad has no role in a peaceful and democratic Syria," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said after the meeting. 

“The sultan must leave,” Ahmed Jarba, the leader of Western backed opposing has said.  “Geneva cannot succeed and we cannot take part if it allows Assad to gain more time to spill the blood of our people while the world looks on.” 

US Secretary of State John Kerry said after the conference that “we believe that he has lost all legitimacy, all capacity to govern the country, and therefore it’s hard to imagine any resolution in any other way.” 

Following the London talks Damascus said it was ready to attend the Geneva 2 conference and "try its best to ensure its success without any preconditions or any foreign intervention." 

"The Syrian people will not allow any foreign party to impose itself ... in choosing a government, or in determining its powers and tasks," the foreign ministry said. 

Only the UN has the authority to set a data for the Geneva 2 talks, but last week it was reported that the conference would start on November 23.

AFP Photo / Ahmad Aboud

Meanwhile the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that Damascus is expected to hand over its disarmament plan on Thursday. 

"We expect Syria's initial declaration of its chemical weapons programme within the next 24 hours," spokesman Michael Luhan told reporters in The Hague. 

This is the next step of the disarmament process agreed under the terms of a US-Russian deal to hand over its chemical weapons and production facilities by mid-2014. 

The Assad government has already handed over the list of its chemical weapons and facilities while the UN-OPCW has been on the ground since the start of the month. So far 18 of 23 declared sites in Syria have been checked and almost all production equipment destroyed, Luhan said. 

Meanwhile violence on the ground continues in Syria with some experts considering it to be another effort to disrupt upcoming peace talks. In a coordinated attack Wednesday evening, rebel fighters destroyed part of a gas pipeline near Damascus, causing the capital and the southern part of Syria to suffer a blackout, at the same time the rebels launched an offensive against government forces in a number of Damascus suburbs.