The Russian foreign minister aims to draw the Syrian opposition into peace talks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hopes to involve Syrian opposition in dialogue. Photo: Reuters

The head of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, urged his Western counterparts — they have, in his opinion, a greater influence on the Syrian rebels — to help in drawing the opposition to the Geneva-2 peace conference.

The minister believes the rebels should come to the meeting as rational parties: They should not focus on how to seize power and run the country, but, instead, they should think about the preservation of a “united, territorially integral and secular country.”

“I do not exclude [the possibility] that the armed opposition — if it is not acting based on extremist, terrorist views — could be represented, which President Bashar Assad also mentioned,” ITAR-TASS quoted Lavrov as saying during a speech, which was given at a press conference following talks with Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The Geneva-2 international conference is scheduled for mid-November. However, this date may be postponed, as the formation of the opposition delegation may require more time.

Munzer Makhos, representative of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF) in Europe, informed Interfax that the core of the delegation could be formed by NCSROF. However, it would also include representatives of other opposition groups, as well as the Kurds.

The question about the head of the delegation has not been raised yet, but Makhos suggests that, if the opposition intends to participate, it will be headed either by the leader of NCSROF, Ahmad Jarba, or by one of his assistants.

Lavrov, though, doubts if Western countries can prepare their representatives by mid-November, according to Reuters. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, the Russian foreign minister also did not fail to recall that U.N. experts, who visited sites of poison gas attacks in Syria twice, had not visited the vicinity of Aleppo.

According to the conclusion of Russian experts, sarin was used near Aleppo on March 19, and the poison was manufactured in makeshift conditions. A substance of the same origin and more concentrated was used in attacks on Aug. 21. Meanwhile, the U.N. group has completed its work and is returning to New York.

“The episode on August 21 was not the only one that should be investigated by the commission headed by Oka Selstrem. We want to know whether the report will be complete or incomplete, as the commission did not have time to visit all the sites. Let us wait to see what the report says,” said Lavrov.

The foreign minister promised that, in any case, Russia would be demanding a search for those people responsible for the March episode.

Russia’s proactive stand on the Syrian issue is connected with a desire to “fill the vacuum” that has formed in the Middle East after the revolutions of the “Arab Spring” and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, according to The Washington Post.

“The behavior of Russia in the region is due to many reasons, but the main among these is Moscow's intention of emphasizing the indispensable role of the Russian state in the world, especially against the background of American helplessness,” InoPressa reported, quoting the newspaper.

“Obama said that he does not consider the Middle East and the conflict in Syria as a sphere of competition with Russia. ‘The Cold War is over,’ he said in his speech at the U.N. last week. However, it is doubtful that Russia is just as determined not to compete with the U.S. in this strategically important region,” The Washington Post wrote, with reference to opinions of Arab analysts.

This article first appeared in Russia Beyond The Headlines.