Russia downplays main Syria opposition group leaving talks

2 min

Yerevan (AFP)

Key regime backer Russia on Friday downplayed the significance of the departure of Syria's main opposition group from UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva earlier this week.

"Probably no one loses but them if they leave the negotiations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on a visit to Armenia, referring to the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC).

The HNC earlier this week halted its formal participation in the round of talks that began in Geneva on April 13 in frustration over surging violence on the ground.

"If they want to secure their participation only at the expense of ultimatums with which everyone needs to agree then this is their problem," Lavrov said.

He said that the task of UN envoy Staffan de Mistura was to deal with the "entire spectrum of the opposition."

"If some part of this spectrum wants to throw tantrums, be our guest," Lavrov said.

"No need to run after them. You have to work with those who are ready to think about their career, not about how to 'please' their foreign sponsors but those who are ready to think about the fate of their country."

"So I believe this is the process of making the Syria talks healthier."

Lavrov noted that several opposition figures had split from the HNC group and that Russia would welcome their participation in the talks as independent entities.

Russia has frowned upon the fact that several hardline groups including the Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) are members of the HNC, saying there is little difference between them and Islamic State jihadists.