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Moscow calls for agreement on Syria opposition

November 4, 2015

Russia's foreign minister has called for international agreement on which of the myriad opposition groups in Syria is legitimate. Moscow's bombing campaign in Syria has contributed to military gains by government forces.

Kämpfe zwischen syrischen Regierungstruppen und Rebellen in Daraa
Image: picture alliance/AA/I. Hariri

Following a meeting in Moscow with United Nations Syrian envoy Staffan de Mistura on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hopes that international negotiators would agree which opposition groups were legitimate before the next round of Syria talks.

Lavrov wanted an agreement on the list of groups that should be invited to the United Nations-brokered talks in Vienna aimed at finding a resolution to the war. He also wanted agreement on which extremist groups should not be covered by a cease-fire "that we hope to declare at some point."

Moscow has in the past lamented that no such agreement has been made. As one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's staunchest allies, Russia in September launched a bombing campaign which it said was targeting the "Islamic State" group but has come under criticism from the US and its allies who accuse Moscow of also targeting moderate opposition groups in an effort to boost Assad's forces.

Syria government troops retake key road

On the ground in Syria, the country's state news agency said government troops had taken back a major road from Islamic State militants. The road links the northern province and city of Aleppo with central provinces and is the government's supply route to the city. "IS" fighters had seized it 12 days ago, cutting off government-held areas of what was once Syria's most populated city from the rest of the country.

Aleppo Syrien Stadtübersicht
Aleppo was Syria's most populous city before the war. Picture taken in 2007Image: Imago/A.Schmidhuber

The report was confirmed by the Britain-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Areas around Aleppo have seen weeks of heavy fighting. If the forces loyal to Assad manage to keep control of the strategic road it would be considered one of their biggest wins since they launched a ground offensive boosted by Russian airstrikes.

Syrian state television said the road would be open for civilians from Thursday.

The country's war broke out in 2011. A popular uprising against the government morphed into a multi-sided conflict which has left some 250,000 people dead and 11 million displaced. Some four million Syrians have fled the country with huge numbers seeking to build a new life in Europe.

se/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)