April 20, 2016 / 2:47 PM / 3 years ago

Russia accuses Syrian opposition of using blackmail at Geneva talks

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia on Wednesday accused the Saudi-backed Syrian opposition of employing blackmail by suspending its participation in peace talks in Geneva.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the tactics deployed by the High Negotiations Committee showed it was not capable of reaching a deal and could not be the sole representative for the opposition at the talks.

“The Geneva forum should be a ‘workshop’ for agreeing on the outlines of Syria’s future secular statehood and for determining the ways of reaching that, but not an ‘eastern bazaar’ with elements of crude blackmail in respect of the international community,” the ministry said in a statement.

“By issuing ultimatums, the Riyadh group, it seems, is trying to mask the fact it has no concrete and realistic proposals.”

Russia spoke out after a Western diplomat warned the fragile peace talks might not resume for at least a year if they were abandoned now and as the opposition urged more military support for rebels after declaring a truce was over.

The Russian statement described as groundless opposition allegations that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were violating an agreement on a cessation of hostilities and on granting access for humanitarian supplies.

“It turns out that certain opposition forces and those external forces which are their patrons are continuing to rely exclusively on achieving their own plans and clearly inflated ambitions, acting on the principle ‘all or nothing’,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The actions of the Saudi-backed opposition underlined the importance of having other moderate opposition groups participate in the talks, it said.

The ministry said it supported the decision of Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy to the talks, to carry on with the negotiations despite the decision of the High Negotiations Committee to suspend its participation.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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