Syrian oppn chief draws flak for talks with Russia, Iran

Syria’s opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib flew back to his Cairo headquarters from Germany on Sunday to explain to skeptical allies his decision to talk with President Bashar al-Assad’s main backers Russia and Iran, in hope of a breakthrough in the crisis.

While, politicians from the United States, Europe and the Middle East at the Munich Security Conference praised Alkhatib’s “courage”, some members of the coalition have criticised his action.

The Russian and Iranian foreign ministers, and US Vice-President Joe Biden, portrayed Alkhatib’s new willingness to talk with the Assad regime as a major step towards resolving the two-year-old war.

“If we want to stop the bloodshed we cannot continue putting the blame on one side or the other,” Iran’s Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday, welcoming Alkhatib’s overtures and adding that he was ready to keep talking to the opposition. Iran is Assad’s main military backer together with Russia.

“This is a very important step. Especially, because the coalition was created on the basis of categorical rejection of any talks with the regime,” Lavrov was quoted as saying on Sunday by Russia’s Itar Tass news agency.

A Syrian opposition member, speaking on condition of anonymity said that Russia and Iran have not changed their positions and still backed Assad.

“He has created a political firestorm. Meeting the Iranian foreign minister was totally unnecessary because it is useless. Iran backs Assad to the hilt and he might as well have met with the Syrian foreign minister,” said another colleague in his 12-member politburo of the Syrian National Coalition.

Opposition backers like Qatar’s Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani and US Republican Senator John McCain voiced frustration.

However, one source in Khatib’s delegation said the offer of dialogue would find an echo among Syrians opposed to Assad who have not taken up arms “and want to get rid of him with the minimum bloodshed”.

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