Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Fatah Al-Sham Besieged, Considered Terrorist by Turkey | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, accompanied by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, gives his annual press conference in Moscow on January 17, 2017. AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV

Beirut- Turkey on Thursday listed Fatah Al-Sham – previously al-Nusra Front – as a terrorist movement, further tightening the noose on the group, which continued fighting with opposition factions in north Syria.

Al-Nusra remains almost alone, as many factions operating in Syria have decided to join hands to confront the group.

Meanwhile, the Turkish-Russian agreement has paved way for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) to participate in the upcoming Geneva talks, after the party was distanced at the Astana talks and the first Geneva meeting due to a Turkish veto.

Meanwhile, Syrian officials considering themselves “opposition” members have started landing in Moscow where they are expected to hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to assess the Astana meeting’s outcomes.

However, the Russian efforts to play a leading role in the negotiations could be at stake after chief coordinator for Syria’s opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Riyad Hijab, Secretary General of the Syrian National Coalition Anas Al-Abdah, his deputy Abdul Hakim Bashar and member of the political committee Hadi al-Bahra refused to visit Moscow on Friday to meet Lavrov and other Syrian officials.

Instead, the Syrian opposition warned from any Russian attempts to form a delegation that would replace the HNC during the Geneva talks next month, fearing that such a delegation might include officials supporting Bashar Assad’s stay in power.

Reports said on Thursday the opposition is cautious from sending representatives to meet with Lavrov in the presence of information about a Russian effort to form a new opposition delegation to attend the upcoming Geneva talks, to include the “backbone” of Moscow, Cairo and Astana, in addition to the Syrian opposition Hmeimim Group and the PYD.

This new context was affirmed by PYD representative in France Khaled Issa, PYD’s co-Chair Asya Abdullah, and the head of Kobane canton administration Anwar Muslim who arrived in Moscow on Thursday to represent the Kurds.

Issa told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We will meet Lavrov tomorrow (Friday) to prepare for the Geneva talks. We have now received confirmations from Russia and other powerful states that we will be part of the negotiations expected in Geneva on Feb. 8 and that any solution in Syria will not be reached without our participation.”

Issa added that the absence of the Kurdish representation would lead to results similar to those reached in previous talks.

Commenting on whether Ankara renounced its insistence to reject the participation of the PYD in any talks on Syria, Issa said: “The latest Russian-Turkish rapprochement might have contributed to this matter.”

“This is a positive sign for restarting serious talks to solve the Syrian crisis,” he said.

PYD representative in Russia Abd Salam Muhammad Ali told Russia’s news agency RIA Novosti that the Syrian Kurds would like to discuss with the Russian Foreign Minister the results of the negotiations in Astana and the agenda of the meeting in Geneva.