Opposition parties continued to boycott the Syrian consultative meeting in Moscow, to be held between January 26 and 29. Regardless of the move, the Russian Foreign Ministry proved determined to hold the meeting, even in the case of an underrepresented delegation of the Syrian government and the opposition.
It was revealed that Damascus is looking at replacing the head of government's delegation, Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, with his deputy, Faisal al-Miqdad, if the number of participants and the level of representation is lower than expected.
Western diplomatic sources told al-Hayat that the Russian Foreign Ministry would send three additional invitations to the president of the Coalition, Khaled Khoja, the leader of Muslim Brotherhood, Farouk Tayfour, and the leader of Syrian Democrats Union, Michel Kilo.
The additional invitations come after a number of invitees refused to participate, prompting a mediation to improve the conditions of the consultative meeting. It is worth mentioning that Kilo was elected president of the National Rally, and Tayfour was also elected to represent the largest bloc in the Coalition.
The Russian Foreign Ministry had sent written invitations to 31 opposition figures, together with representatives of business and civil society sectors, in addition to the Syrian government's delegation. It is understood a consultative meeting will be held in Moscow, paving the way for the resumption of negotiations between the government and the opposition to hold a Geneva 3 conference. The Geneva statement includes the formation of "a transitional governing body with full executive powers, accepted by both parties (the opposition and the government)".
Moscow identified January 16 as a final date to receive the answers from invitees, meaning the Coalition and the National Coordination Commission for Democratic Change will be required to decide before they meet in the Egyptian capital to discuss the "Cairo Declaration" and a "road map to save Syria", as a reference for negotiations with the regime on a transitional phase.
Khoja said in a press conference a few days ago that the Coalition has not been invited to represent the Syrian people.
"Our dialogue with the regime will focus on the process of political transition, the process of a peaceful transition of power to a transitional body with full constitutional powers. Outside this context, we cannot sit with the regime at the same table", Khoja added.
Moscow still bets on the presence of three figures from the Coalition; Abdul Basset Seeda, Salah Darwish and Abdul Ahad Estifo, though the leadership of the Coalition has threatened to take action against any member participating in the Moscow meetings without permission from the Coalition. Consequently, former president of the Coalition, Hadi al-Bahra, and its Secretary General, Bader Jamous, decided not to attend the meeting.
The former president of the Coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, who met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow a few weeks ago, had declared that he would not attend the meeting.
Khatib announced yesterday that he "would not participate because the circumstances to guarantee the success of the meeting are not available", pointing out that he did had still not received an answer to his request considering the "need to stop the bombardment (carried out by regime forces) against our people" before the start of the consultative meeting.
The State Building Movement had announced that none of its members would participate in the Moscow talks citing several reasons jeopardizing the meetings.
"We were hoping that the meeting will push towards a political solution to end the crisis and achieve the demands of Syrians who want to live in a democratic and just state", the movement said.
The movement also stated that "if Moscow had really been serious in its work to find a political solution for the crisis, it would have provided an explicit initiative with clear negotiations schedule".
In a related context, it was learned that the Coordination Commission is considering making its final decision at a meeting between its General Coordinator, Hassan Abdulazim, and the former head of its overseas branch, Haytham Manna, in Geneva today.
Abdulazim sent a letter to Lavrov to raise the number of seats for the Commission from four to 10, requesting Moscow puts pressure on the regime to take confidence-building steps, such as "ceasing the bombardment of cities, the release of detainees and the induction of opposition figures in the regime's delegation, such as Suheir Sarmini and Majd Niazi".
The final position of Aref Dalila, who met Abdulazim in the United Arab Emirates a few days ago, is still unknown.
Manna has called for a “coordination meeting" in Switzerland today, with the possibility of holding meetings with UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura, who sees Moscow's effort as "complementary" to his plan to freeze the fighting in Aleppo, intending to visit Damascus in order to finalize talks with Syrian officials.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer