Syrian minister, opposition leader to visit Moscow

Moscow, Feb 14 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and opposition leader Al-Khatib will visit Moscow later this month, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said.

"The date of Muallem's visit has not been agreed on yet, but we act on the assumption that it will take place quite soon. We will agree on an acceptable date within the next several days," Bogdanov said.

Al-Khatib, leader of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNCROF), will visit Moscow within the next two to three weeks, he said.

He said al-Khatib had met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich earlier this month.

SNCROF was formed in November 2012 in Doha, Qatar, and proclaimed itself the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Its legitimacy has since been recognised by Western powers, but questioned by Russia.

In December, Al-Khatib rejected an invitation from Russia to discuss a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, he said he wanted an apology from Moscow for having supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia has faced international criticism over its refusal to back UN sanctions against Syria, over what it calls the pro-rebel bias of some resolutions proposed by Western nations.

Syria has been locked in a civil war since demonstrations broke out against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. According to UN estimates, at least 60,000 people have been killed and more than 700,000 have fled the country.

--IANS/RIA Novosti

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