Syrian opposition leader to visit Russia in bid ahead of talks

Photo: Syrian opposition leader to visit Russia in bid ahead of talks / Arabic region

The head of Syria's opposition National Council, Ahmad al-Jarba, said he will visit Russia following an invitation from Moscow, Kuwaiti state media reported Monday.

He did not give a date for his visit, dpa reported.

Al-Jarba told the KUNA news agency that he already received an invitation from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, about 20 days ago.

"I will visit Russia to convince them that their interest lies with the Syrian people and not with the regime," he said.

Russia and the United States are gearing up to make sure that all parties involved in the Syrian crisis - which started in 2011 and has claimed more than 100,000 lives by UN estimates - will attend a peace parley dubbed Geneva II. That meeting is scheduled for January 22.

The conference aims to end Syria's civil war by creating a transitional governing body.

Russia is one of the main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose government said it will attend the talks.

During his visit to Kuwait, al-Jarba reiterated that the coalition would take part in the Geneva II conference, "but on (the) basis of the basic principles of the Syrian revolution."

The coalition said it would attend the Geneva conference, but will not accept any future role for al-Assad. It also demands the release of all detainees and an opening of humanitarian corridors to help citizens trapped by the fighting.

Opposition sources are still sceptical that the Geneva II conference will be on January 22, because the grounds "are still not set to convene such a parley."

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