US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have spoken over the phone about the upcoming UN-sponsored Syrian peace talks in Geneva. The talks will be the largest effort yet to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian Civil War that has raged for almost 5 years.
Kerry’s call to Lavrov comes three days after a face-to-face meeting between the two in Zurich, following which a joint statement was released saying "particular attention was given to the need to form a genuinely representative opposition delegation."
During Saturday’s phone conversation, the two top diplomats agreed that the intra-Syrian political process needs to continue, though there is still disagreement about the makeup of the opposition delegation. The UN has stated the talks may be postponed for several days until an agreement can be reached.
Radio Free Europe reported that Moscow has disapproved of the proposed opposition delegation due to the inclusion of the Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam group, which Moscow considers to be a terrorist organization.
Moscow has been accused of intentionally creating an image of a fragmented Syrian opposition while at the same time making the al-Assad regime appear to be unified and decisive.
The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement on Saturday saying "the heads of foreign offices continued their discussion of the Syrian subject, confirming their support for the efforts of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to organize negotiations between Syrian Government representatives and opposition forces in Geneva next week to achieve a political settlement.”
Russia has been accused of carrying out airstrikes against moderate Syrian opposition groups supported by the US and other western countries, though the Kremlin insists that Russian bombers primarily carry out attacks against the so-called Islamic State.