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Syrian Opposition Says not Part of Talks that Moscow Said Are Underway | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference after the talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Moscow, Russia, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that the Syrian regime was holding talks with the opposition ahead of possible peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, the Interfax news agency reported.

Lavrov did not say where the current talks were being held and it was unclear which opposition groups were taking part.

The High Negotiations Committee, a body grouping armed and political opponents of head of Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad, said it had no knowledge of the negotiations.

“We in the High Negotiations Committee certainly have no connection to this matter,” George Sabra, a member of the HNC, told Reuters.

The HNC includes armed groups fighting Assad under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, and took part in a failed bid to launch peace talks earlier this year. The HNC was established in Saudi Arabia with Riyadh’s backing in December, 2015.

Russia, Iran and Turkey said last week they were ready to help broker a peace deal after holding talks in Moscow where they adopted a declaration setting out the principles any agreement should adhere to.

President Vladimir Putin has said that all three countries and Assad had agreed that the Kazakh capital should be the venue for new talks.

Lavrov spoke to his Turkish counterpart by telephone on Tuesday and they agreed to push for a ceasefire and to prepare for the Astana talks, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Lavrov said on Tuesday that Russia would work more closely with Turkey and Iran on the situation in Syria and said the three countries’ cooperation had saved lives by helping to evacuate eastern Aleppo.

“We will further build our cooperation with Ankara, Tehran and other countries in the region on the Syrian question,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The RIA news agency cited an unnamed diplomatic source as saying that representatives from the Russian and Turkish militaries were holding consultations with the Syrian opposition in Ankara about how a possible nationwide ceasefire might work.