While most of the public fighting over who was or wasn’t invited to the Syrian peace talks in Geneva centered around Turkey’s blocking of all Kurdish groups, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed today that his nation had serious qualms about the inclusion of certain Islamist factions, who he dubbed “terrorist organizations.”
The two factions, Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, ultimately did get invited, and while Russia insisted they will tolerate their participation in the talks, that doesn’t mean their formal view has changed, and that they believe they should be talked with “privately,” instead of as part of the broader rebel coalition.
Ahrar al-Sham is the larger, and more problematic, of the two groups, as the group’s leadership has openly endorsed al-Qaeda repeatedly. Saudi Arabia, however, has thrown their weight heavily behind the ground as “moderate Islamists,” and bankrolled them in a big way.
The battle over which rebels were proper rebels and which were terrorists was a big factor in the delay in getting invitations to the Geneva talks, and today’s comments from Lavrov suggest it was never properly resolved, and that they simply let the matter go, for now, for the sake of letting the talks finally happen.
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