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Russia’s Call for ‘Terrorism’ on Agenda of Geneva Talks Leads to Confusion | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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FILE PHOTO – Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov/ REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud/Pool

Ankara- Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov threw on Tuesday the ball of the intra-Syrian talks in the camp of U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura after announcing from Geneva that “the fight against terrorism is a priority and should be on the agenda along with other issues, including Resolution 2254.”

However, de Mistura said he believes the issues of terrorism, ceasefire and delivery of humanitarian aid were the “specialty” of the “Astana” talks organized by Russia, Turkey and Iran, while the “Geneva” talks should rather focus on political matters.

Gatilov, who arrived Monday in the Swiss city and met with Syrian regime negotiator Bashar Jaafari, adopted the same position of the regime, which insists on placing the issue of fighting terrorism on the agenda of the Geneva talks. The Russian official is in Geneva for the 34th session of the Human Rights Council.

Salem al-Muslet, a spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee, quickly responded to Russia’s position and said: “The issue of terrorism does not need negotiations, but was used by the regime delegation to lengthen the process of the talks.”

Until Tuesday, opposition forces were still betting on the clear U.S. absence in Geneva and on a “moderate” Russia, which pretended exerting pressure on the Syrian regime delegation to finally accept discussing the issue of power transfer in Syria.

Western sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that a meeting between the Syrian regime delegation and de Mistura on Tuesday was rather “confrontational.”

The picture in Geneva is currently open to a range of options, unless Russia adopts a softer position, one that does not duplicate what the Syrian regime insists on implementing.

At the battlefield, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted that disputes remained with Washington concerning the participation of the Kurdish forces in the liberation of Raqqa, the stronghold of ISIS in northern Syria.