GENEVA — Russia called Tuesday for terrorism to be included on the agenda of U.N.-sponsored peace talks on Syria in Geneva, which have been overshadowed by violence on the ground. Moscow, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, wants the issue added to an agenda which for the moment focuses on three “baskets” or areas: governance, constitution and elections.
“Definitely yes,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told reporters when asked if terrorism should be included. “Terrorism is a priority. The fight against terrorism is a priority and it should be on the agenda, along with other issues that were suggested that are contained in (U.N. Security Council) resolution 2254,” which set the terms of reference for the U.N. talks, he said. The Syrian regime’s delegation chief, Bashar al-Jaafari, demanded at the weekend that all opposition factions present in Geneva condemn a suicide assault that killed dozens Saturday near Syria’s third city of Homs. The Russian minister, speaking after meeting al-Jaafari, said Damascus wants terrorism on the agenda of the sputtering peace talks, the first in 10 months and the fourth round under U.N. auspices. Al-Jaafari “said that terrorism should not be ignored and should be also on the agenda,” said Gatilov, who is due to meet the main opposition delegation in Geneva on Wednesday. U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura launched the latest round of talks last Thursday, but as in previous sessions there appears little prospect of the two sides meeting face-to-face. Gatilov was cautious in his assessment of hopes for the latest Geneva talks.