June 19, 2013
Syrian opposition talks with Russia, seeks breakthrough
The Syrian opposition leader met Russia's foreign minister in Germany today and said he would also hold talks with the Iranian foreign minister, opening a window to a possible breakthrough in efforts to broker an end to Syria's civil war.
Russia and Iran have been the staunchest allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout an armed uprising against his rule, and any understandings they might reach with Assad's foes could help overcome the two sides' refusal to negotiate.
At an annual international security conference in Munich, Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib had talks with Russia's Sergei Lavrov that may have been made possible by Alkhatib signalling readiness to talk to Damascus.
He also met separately with US Vice President Joe Biden and UN special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.
"Russia has a certain vision but we welcome negotiations to alleviate the crisis and there are lots of details that need to be discussed," Alkhatib said after the meeting.
The Syrian opposition leader said he would also meet Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who was attending the Munich security conference, later on Saturday or on Sunday.
His purpose in meeting Salehi and the US and Russian officials was "to discuss finding a way to remove the regime with the least possible bloodshed and loss of life", he said.
Russia has blocked three UN Security Council resolutions aimed at pushing out Assad out or pressuring him to end the civil war, in which more than 60,000 people have died. But Moscow has also tried to distance itself from Assad by saying it is not trying to prop him up and will not offer him asylum.
"The talks about Syria are intensifying and the Iranians have been drawn in. Let's see how it all ends," one diplomatic source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.