Syrian Opposition Insists: Assad Must Go

Syria's main opposition group on Thursday insisted President Bashar Al-Assad must go and rejected calls to join forces against Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists as it met with Russia's foreign minister.

The head of Syria's National Coalition Khaled Khoja held talks with top diplomat Sergei Lavrov as part of a fresh push by Russia to find a way out of the four-year civil war that has cost some 240,000 lives, the AFP news agency reported.

Moscow — one of Assad's few remaining backers — is pushing a plan for a broader grouping than the international coalition fighting the ISIS, to include Syria's government and its allies.

But Khoja — in Moscow for his first talks since February 2014 — ruled out cooperating with Assad and reiterated demands that the strongman must leave before any transitional government can be set up.

"Bashar Assad has no role in the future of Syria," Khoja said in an interview with the Interfax news agency translated into Russian and quoted by AFP.

At the start of the meeting, Lavrov insisted that Russia was working with regional and international players to find a political solution to the crisis and stop Syria from becoming a "hotbed of terrorism".

"The main thing now is that these interests translate into practical coordinated steps," Lavrov said.

National Coalition representative Badr Jamous described the visit as "very good", Russian Interfax reported after the sit-down.

"There were many issues where we agreed with the Russian representatives," Jamous was quoted as saying.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir — a key backer of the Syrian opposition — rejected calls to work with Assad against ISIS after a meeting with Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.

The spate of meetings is part of a broader diplomatic flurry that saw Lavrov sit down with Jubeir and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Doha earlier this month.

As part of the push, Lavrov is expected to meet with the head of a newer grouping of opposition figures known as the Cairo Conference Committee on Friday.

Syria's opposition and Western officials have hinted that Moscow's backing for Assad may be wavering, but Moscow insists it remains firmly behind the Syrian leader.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has continuously backed his ally Assad, and Russia has several times vetoed resolutions related to Syria at the UN Security Council, raising the ire of the West.

Recently, Putin said he is ready to "push" Assad towards introducing reforms in the war-torn country, but vowed he would continue to support his ally.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/199444

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