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Syrian walkout from talks 'an embarrassment to Russia' - opposition
December 4, 2017 / 12:53 PM / 8 days ago

Syrian walkout from talks 'an embarrassment to Russia' - opposition

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Syrian government’s decision to quit peace talks last week was an embarrassment to its main supporter Russia, which wants both sides to reach a deal quickly, opposition spokesman Yahya al-Aridi said on Monday.

Syria's U.N. ambassador and chief negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari arrives for a meeting with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura during the Intra Syria talks in Geneva, Switzerland December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The delegation left the U.N.-backed talks in Geneva on Friday, blaming the opposition’s demands that President Bashar al-Assad should play no role in any interim post-war government.

“I don’t think that those who support the regime are happy with such a position being taken by the regime. This is an embarrassment to Russia,” Aridi said at the hotel where the opposition delegation is staying in Geneva.

“We understand the Russian position now. They are... in a hurry to find a solution.”

There was no immediate comment from Russian officials at the talks on the withdrawal of the government delegation.

Russia helped to turn the Syrian war in Assad’s favour and has become the key force in the push for a diplomatic solution. Last month Russian President Vladimir Putin said a political settlement should be finalised within the U.N. Geneva process.

The opposition, long wary of Russia’s role, now accepts it. Western diplomats say Putin’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev was present at the Riyadh meeting last month where the oppostion drew up its statement rejecting any future role for Assad.

Asked if the opposition was willing to compromise on Assad’s role in any post-war government, Aridi said his delegation’s demands were based on the wishes of the Syrian people.

“I believe that our mere presence in Geneva is in itself a compromise. We are sitting with a regime that has been carrying out all these atrocities for the past seven years. What other compromise could we make?”

A source close to government delegation told Reuters on Monday that Damascus was still studying the feasibility of participation in the talks and when a decision was reached it would be sent through ordinary diplomatic channels.

Reporting by Tom Miles, additional reporting by Kinda Makieh in Damascus; Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Heavens

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