Beirut, Moscow – While the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) had anticipated the distribution of invitations to the Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, by rejecting to participate in the intra-Syrian meeting, informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Russia is about to exclude the “Committee” and instead invite factions close to Ankara, mainly Ahrar Al-Sham movement.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov was quoted on Friday by the Interfax news agency as saying that talks between a regime delegation and opposition representatives would take place in the middle of January.
However, Gatilov said the opposition delegation would represent forces operating on the ground in Syria, considering the “HNC” as a foreign opposition.
Meanwhile, Moscow promotes for a ceasefire across the entire Syrian territory. In this regard, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his annual Q&A session with the press on Friday: “Everything needs to be done for fighting to stop on all Syrian territory.”
Putin said, “The liberation of Aleppo from radical elements is a very important part of the normalization in Syria, and I hope, for the region overall,” adding that “this couldn’t have happened without the active work of the Turkish leadership, the Turkish president, the president of Iran and the entire Iranian leadership. We contributed to it actively too.”
The Russian President added: “And of course this couldn’t have happened without the goodwill and work of Syrian [President] Bashar Assad and his people.”
Putin praised head of the Syrian regime and congratulated him on the “liberation of Aleppo.”
The Russian leader said the next goal in Syria is a nationwide ceasefire and political settlement, and that Moscow had suggested that peace talks would be held in Kazakhstan.
U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura has said early this month he plans to convene separate peace talks in Geneva on Feb. 8, 2017.
But Gatilov said on Friday that the peace talks in Astana would not replace the Geneva talks.
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that his country would deploy a military police battalion of 400 members in the city of Aleppo.
Also on Friday, signs of disputes emerged between the Syrian regime and Aleppo’s Kurds amid information saying the Syrian regime requested that Kurdish fighters, which deploy in 11 Aleppo neighborhoods, raise the Syrian flag and allow the deployment of police forces in Kurdish-controlled areas. However, Kurds rejected their request.