Russia is alarmed by reports that the Syrian opposition is being reorganized around a new leadership opposed to further peace talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday, Feb 17, according to RIA Novosti.
“New details are emerging – and we are verifying them – that some backers of the opposition are beginning to form a new structure made up of those who have left the national coalition, out of those who do not believe in negotiations,” Lavrov said.
The foreign minister warned that the reorganization of the Syrian opposition could threaten a diplomatic solution to the civil war and signals that rebels might be returning to hopes of a military victory over the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Moscow’s longtime ally.
The second round of multiparty peace talks in Geneva that were aimed at a cessation of the hostilities in Syria concluded on Saturday with no deal reached between the entrenched sides of the ongoing civil war.
The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition invited rebel leaders to the talks in an effort to boost the body’s legitimacy among fighters on the ground, who have been growing increasingly disconnected from the civilian-led government-in-exile.
The coalition, formed in November 2012 from a number of elements of the Syrian opposition, has been facing internal discord and a key constituent, the Syrian National Council, withdrew from the group last month in protest of the peace talks with the Assad regime.
Lavrov voiced a concern that the reorganized opposition might be aiming to secure outside military support for regime change, based on the example of the Libyan rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi three years ago.
In that conflict, Moscow signed off on a UN Security Council resolution to enable American and European military assets to establish a no-fly zone to protect civilians, but later chastised the US and European allies for expanding the scope of airstrikes to include the removal of the country’s leader from power.
Lavrov added on Monday that a proposed provision in a UN Security Council resolution to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria without Damascus’ permission would be a violation of international law and state sovereignty.
Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, can block any resolution by the body with its veto power.