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Who is Syria's legitimate opposition? Russia demands clarity ahead of next crisis talks

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Who is Syria's legitimate opposition? Russia demands clarity ahead of next crisis talks


Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that decisions must be made about who to consider terrorists and who should be deemed legitimate opposition groups in Syria before the next round of international talks on the country’s civil war.

Meeting the United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in Moscow, Lavrov spoke as Russia shows increasing flexibility in diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict.

“Two lists need to be agreed upon,” he said.

“The first is for terrorist organisations to which a ceasefire would not apply. The second list is for opposition delegations which will hold talks with the government – under UN auspices – with the representative of the Secretary-General taking a coordinating role.”

Russia said Lavrov had also held telephone talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry including a look at ways to form a united Syrian opposition delegation.

Syria’s skies are increasingly crowded, with separate air strikes by Russia and a US-led coalition.

Images posted on social media by an ISIL-linked group purportedly show Russian-inflicted damage on a hospital in the Islamists’ stronghold, Raqqa, on Tuesday.

Yet, 85 to 90 percent of Russian strikes in Syria have hit the moderate Syrian opposition, the top US diplomat for the Middle East told a congressional committee on Wednesday.

Anne Patterson also told a House of Representatives hearing that President Barack Obama is considering additional ways to “intensify” the campaign against the so-called Islamic State, which has seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

The Obama administration last week announced that it would send fewer than 50 special operations forces into Syria in an advise and assist capacity, weeks after Russia, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, escalated its involvement in the conflict with its own air strikes.

Iran however will not cooperate with the United States on the “fight against terrorists in Syria”, a top adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying by state media on Wednesday.

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