has strongly criticized the Saudi-backed Syrian opposition for its withdrawal from the ongoing peace talks in Geneva, accusing it of employing blackmail.
“The Geneva forum should be a ‘workshop’ for agreeing on the outlines of Syria’s future … statehood and for determining the ways of reaching that, but not an ‘eastern bazaar’ with elements of crude blackmail in respect of the international community,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, leaders of the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) left the latest round of the peace talks, which began in Geneva on April 13, to protest at what they called escalating violence and restrictions on humanitarian access in Syria.
The Russian ministry noted that the HNC move reflects its unwillingness to reach a deal.
“By issuing ultimatums, the Riyadh group, it seems, is trying to mask the fact it has no concrete and realistic proposals.”
The ministry also dismissed as groundless opposition allegations that the Syrian government forces violated the ceasefire brokered by the US and Russia, which went into effect on February 27 across Syria.
“It turns out that certain opposition forces and those external forces which are their patrons are continuing to rely exclusively on achieving their own plans and clearly inflated ambitions, acting on the principle of ‘all or nothing’,” the statement added.
The ministry also stressed that such acts highlight that the Saudi-backed HNC cannot be the opposition’s sole representative at the negotiations, and called for the participation of other moderate opposition groups in the talks.
Russia also voiced its support for the decision of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to continue the talks despite the HNC withdrawal.
In reaction to the HNC decision, Syria’s chief negotiator in peace talks, Bashar al-Ja’afari, said on Wednesday that the so-called opposition group does not represent the Syrian people.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad also said the opposition’s move proved their lack of seriousness in reaching a political solution to the conflict gripping the Arab country.
The previous round of the UN-backed peace talks for Syria came to a halt on March 24 over disagreements on the role of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s future, with the foreign-backed Syrian opposition insisting that Assad must not have a role in the country’s future.
In an interview with Lebanese TV station Al Mayadeen, the Syrian government’s chief negotiator, however, said that Assad’s future is not up for discussion at peace talks.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict in the Arab country has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people and displaced nearly half of its pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.