Four days of talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups ended on Thursday without any visible signs of progress. The discussions, which were held in Moscow, had not been attended by representatives of the Syrian National Coalition -- the country’s main opposition political group backed by the U.S. -- according to media reports.
The negotiations are part of Russia-backed initiative to end the over four-year civil war in the country that has killed nearly 300,000 people and displaced millions. However, the Syrian National Coalition has remained suspicious of Moscow’s involvement as Kremlin has staunchly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the war.
Vitaly Naumkin, head of the Moscow-based Institute for Eastern Studies, who moderated the discussions, said that the talks had been attended by 32 representatives from opposition groups and seven officials from the Syrian government.
“It's already an achievement that those people, who have opposite views, sat down and talked calmly and found some common ground,” Naumkin reportedly said, adding that the issue of “terrorism” was also discussed. Russia has consistently supported Assad in his assertion that the Syrian rebels, many of whom have been provided weapons and training by the U.S., are terrorists.
“Terrorism featured elaborately during the talks, and the Russians had shown support and understanding about it … Accordingly, the topic was listed among Moscow principles,” Bashar Jaafari, head of the Syrian government’s delegation to Moscow, said on Thursday, according to a report by SANA, the Syrian state-owned news agency. He added that while the government delegation was “positive and open” throughout the discussions, the opposition was splintered.
“Not for once did we listen to a unified position by the opposition, not even on the humanitarian issue,” Jaafari reportedly said.
Naumkin said the Russian government would try to organize a follow-up meeting, but no date has been set so far for the next round of talks, according to media reports. However, a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that there is very little hope of a breakthrough at the discussions in Moscow and that further talks could only go “downhill.”