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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

With Geneva-2 Stalled, Russia Mulls Syria Talks in Moscow - Lavrov

RIA Novosti

15:01 09/09/2013

MOSCOW, September 9 (RIA Novosti) – Russia is considering holding peace talks on the Syrian conflict in Moscow, as plans for a US-Russia-backed Geneva-2 conference remain stalled, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday after a meeting with his Syrian counterpart.

Lavrov said the main obstacle to the Geneva-2 summit – intended to bring the Syrian government and rebel forces to the negotiating table – was reluctance to participate by the internationally recognized representatives of the insurgents, the Syrian National Coalition.

But Russia has been working to establish contacts with all Syrian rebel groups and will continue to do so, trying to convince them of the "lack of alternatives to a peaceful conference," Lavrov said at a joint press conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

"If in the course of such contacts we see that this could help matters, then we do not rule out inviting to Moscow all those interested in peace in Syria, all those interested in a political solution, those who reject a military scenario, including, of course, [military] intervention," Lavrov said.

He did not give a time frame for possible talks in Moscow or say whether Russia had already reached out to the Syrian National Coalition with the proposal.

The Syrian government is currently ready to participate in the Geneva-2 meeting without preconditions, Muallem said, adding that Damascus would change its position in the event of foreign aggression.

The Syrian National Coalition refused to take part in the Geneva-2 talks after an alleged August 21 chemical-weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, according to Reuters.

The United States has accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad of staging the attack, estimated to have killed anywhere between 355 and 1,700 people, and is contemplating military action as punishment, though Washington denies plans to topple the Assad regime. Moscow has strongly opposed outside military intervention in Syria and has blamed the chemical attack on the rebels.

At Monday's press conference, Lavrov called on Washington to focus its efforts on a political solution to the conflict, now in its third year, 'not on the preparation of a military scenario.'

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