NEW: Main opposition group is not invited to talks with regime in Moscow
Government says it's ready for talks with the opposition, according to state news agency
Moscow says it will broker the talks in January, Itar-Tass reports
U.N. negotiations between the warring parties fell apart in February
The Syrian government is ready to send envoys to Moscow for talks with representatives of the opposition it has been fighting in a brutal civil war for over 3½ years, according to state-run media.
The government of President Bashar Al-Assad wants to find a way out of the conflict in the country, state-news agency SANA said Saturday.
But moderate opposition groups say they have not been invited to the talks by Russia and will not participate, according to Oubai Shahbandar with the Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group recognized by the United States, the United Nations and Russia.
He said Moscow invited only loyalists groups that are close to the Syrian regime.
The meeting is expected to take place after January 20 in Moscow and will be “informal,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said earlier this week, according to Russian state news agency Itar-Tass.
“Negotiators have been named; they are the foreign minister and the first deputy … but it is up to Syria’s authorities to decide on the format for the delegation to be sent for Moscow’s consultative meeting,” the spokesman said.
The Syrian National Coalition says any meaningful talks must be held on the basis of the Geneva communique that was agreed upon by the United States, United Nations and Russia.
Negotiations in Geneva, brokered by the United Nations, fell apart in February. At the time, U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi apologized to the Syrian people, saying he was “very, very sorry” that, despite two rounds of talks, “we haven’t done very much.”
Since then, the extremist group ISIS has become a growing force in northern Syria and al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front has made gains, weakening more moderate opposition groups.
Pierre Meilhan and and Anna Maja Rappard contributed to this story