Syria opposition chief 'very interested' in Moscow meeting

Ahmad Jarba, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, at a news conference about chemical weapons in New York, September 27, 2013. — Reuters pic
Ahmad Jarba, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, at a news conference about chemical weapons in New York, September 27, 2013. — Reuters pic

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BEIRUT, Nov 17 — Syrian opposition chief Ahmed Jarba is “very interested” in travelling to Moscow to meet officials from the Russian government, a major backer of the Damascus regime, an advisor to Jarba told AFP today.

Russia invited National Coalition president Jarba to Moscow from Nov 18 to 21, which would have coincided with a visit by representatives from President Bashar al-Assad’s government, said Munzer Aqbiq.

But the opposition head “regretted” being unable to visit Moscow tomorrow, due to “preset official commitments”, the adviser added.

“President Jarba received an invitation from (Russian Foreign) Minister (Sergei) Lavrov for an official visit to Moscow for talks”, he said.

Jarba “expresses a high interest in the Coalition for relations and talks with Russia as well as his interest in visiting Moscow”, Aqbiq said.

The comments come a day before a Syrian government delegation is set to arrive in Moscow.

Moscow and the Coalition will “coordinate ... a new date for a visit,” Aqbiq added.

A Damascus official had earlier this week said the government delegation will be made up of Assad’s advisor Buthaina Shaaban, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad and Ahmad Arnous, the ministry’s senior official on European affairs.

Their visit is set to take place ahead of a proposed peace conference on Syria dubbed Geneva II, that aims to bring government and rebel representatives to the negotiating table.

The opposition Coalition has agreed to attend peace talks in Geneva so long as they lead to a transitional period that would see Assad’s departure from power. — AFP