МОSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow invited the U.N. envoy for Syria to a second round of meetings scheduled for the beginning of April between some Syrian opposition figures and the Damascus government, Interfax reported on Monday citing a deputy foreign minister.
The first round of Moscow talks were shunned by key political opposition groups and did not involve the main insurgents; but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at the weekend Washington was seeking to reignite peace efforts and a transition must be negotiated with President Bashar al-Assad’s administration - comments that could herald a broadening of efforts. .
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Moscow had sent invitations to U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura along with “a broad range of opposition organizations and groups”.
He added that new Moscow talks, which previously had been expected to take place about a month after the first round, are now set to take place in early April.
“Preparations have been launched for the second round which will take place in the first ten days of April,” Gatilov said.
The Syrian civil war has claimed more than 200,000 lives, since protests against Assad started in early 2011.
Moscow is a long-standing ally of Assad, who has dubbed many of its opponents terrorists. Many opposition figures shunned January talks, saying they would only appear at a meeting that led to Assad’s ouster.
Washington has long insisted Assad must be replaced through a negotiated, political transition.
Writing by Denis Pinchuk; editing by Ralph Boulton