Syria rebels, opposition reject Russia-proposed talks

Mikhail Klimentyev

FILE – This Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Syrian President Bashar Assad watch the troops marching at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria. Nearly seven years into the conflict, the war in Syria seems on one level to be winding down, largely because of Russian-backed government victories and local cease-fires aimed at freezing the lines of conflict. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

BEIRUT — Syrian rebels and opposition groups on Tuesday rejected Russia’s proposed peace talks, accusing Moscow of failing to pressure its ally, President Bashar Assad, to end the conflict.

In a series of statements, 40 rebel groups, including some of Syria’s most prominent, as well as political opposition groups, said the talks expected next month are an attempt to “circumvent” the U.N.-led process, which has made virtually no progress since it began in 2014.

The rebel groups said Moscow has asked them to give up their demand for Assad to step down.

“We reject this, and we affirm that Russia is an aggressor that has committed war crimes against Syrians,” the statement signed by 40 rebel groups said. “Russia has not contributed with a single move to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people and it has not pressured the regime it claims it guarantees to move an inch toward any real path toward a resolution.”

The rebel groups, including Ahrar al-Sham, Army of Islam and a number of Western and regionally-backed outfits, said they are committed to the U.N.-led Geneva process, and called on the international community to end the bloodshed, now in its seventh year. Political opposition groups and governing bodies in rebel-held areas have…

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