Russia urges new Syrian opposition leadership to participate in peace talks
“According to our estimates, which are shared by our American
partners, the main task in promoting a peaceful political
solution in Syria is the consolidation of different groups within
the Syrian opposition on the platform of the Geneva protocol from
June 30, 2012,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr
Lukashevich said on Monday.
Ahmad Jarba, the new head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition told Reuters on Sunday that he rejected the option of attending a peace conference in Geneva sponsored by Geneva and the US on the grounds of the rebels’ weak position.
“Geneva in these circumstances is not possible. If we are going to go to Geneva we have to be strong on the ground, unlike the situation now, which is weak,” Jarba said on Sunday.
Lukashevich said that his comments “raised a number of
questions about future actions of the National Coalition and most
importantly, about its commitment to a political settlement of
the protracted crisis in Syria.”
Russia remains prepared to jointly oversee and engage in peace talks alongside the US.
“Moscow is ready to establish contact with the new leadership of the coalition in the interests of facilitating an end to the devastating conflict in Syria,” Lukashevich said.
He outlined the importance of the rebels being willing to send their representatives to the peace conference in Geneva, “without any preconditions and through cooperative effort start the search for specific parameters of political settlement.”
The Syrian opposition has been sticking to their demands for weapons amid discussions of peace talks overseen by both the US and Russia.
The rebel collective is currently anticipating the delivery of advanced weapons from Saudi Arabia, including shoulder-fired missiles, to use against Syrian government air power, Jarba told Reuters.
“I will not rest until I procure the advanced weapons needed to hit back at Assad and his allies. ... I give myself one month to achieve what I am intent on doing,” Jarba said, announcing that he expected advanced weapons supplied to the rebels by Saudi Arabia to reach his fighters “soon.”
Violence in Homs spills into tenth day
On Monday the battle between Syrian forces and rebel groups in Homs entered its tenth day. Homs in central Syria is considered of vital importance by both the government and rebels.
The army wrested a contested district of the city from rebels on Monday, government officials told AP, while city-based opposition activists countered the assertion.
The official said that the government was still facing rebel-held pockets, while one of the activists, Abu Yasin, said government forces had not advanced beyond a series of buildings they seized earlier in the week.
Central parts of the city remain under the control of opposition troops, which Assad’s forces have been targeting with air strikes, mortar bombs and tanks. Rebels seeking his ousting have clung on to parts of the city which they took over a year ago, but have since been under siege.
Homs links the capital, Damascus, to army bases in both coastal
areas and Hezbollah strongholds in nearby Lebanon making it of
key strategic significance. Rebels control a large part of
northern Syria but Assad's army retook Qusair last month, a town
in Homs province and near the border with Lebanon.
The rebels proposed a truce for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which
begins in Syria on Tuesday, to stop the fighting in Homs.
The Syrian government rejected the idea on Monday, with Syria's U.N. ambassador stating "we need a full end of violence, not a partial one," according to AP.
Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari asserted that Syrian rebels would have to fully engage in the peace negotiations and commit themselves to participation in a U.S.-Russian sponsored round of talks in Geneva.