Russia offers to act as power broker for Syrian peace talks
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) speaks with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi before the start of a Russian-Arab League meeting in Moscow. (AFP PHOTO / POOL)
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Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's last Western ally, has offered to broker talks between the Syrian opposition and the government's negotiators in order to put a stop to the 22-month conflict that has killed an estimated 70,000 people, AP reported on Thursday.
The ex-Soviet state proposed to act as power broker, alongside the Arab League, in trying to negotiate a peace settlement. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kremlin was trying to establish direct contact between the regime and the opposition.
Syrian opposition leader, Sheikh Moaz al-Khatib, visited Moscow earlier this month, saying he was ready for a dialogue with representatives of Assad's regime.
However his party, the Syrian National Coalition , said talks would only happen on condition that the Syrian president agree to go and that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners were released.
The opposition have been similarly unwilling to engage in the latest Russian-led proposal of talks. Abdelbaset Sieda, a senior member of the Coalition, said: "Assad and his group must go first. After that we can discuss with others in the regime who didn't share in the killing of our people."
However, it is notable that the proposal of peace talks came from Russia, Assad's biggest ally in the West, showing that the Syrian regime may be weakening on its stance of continuing the bloodshed.