• Russia hosts Syria talks but key opposition absent


    BEIRUT: Talks on ending the Syrian civil war open in Moscow on Monday, but with key opposition figures absent, little progress is expected on resolving the shifting conflict. Instead, the discussions are expected to focus on humanitarian issues and serve as a way for Russia, a main backer of the Syrian regime, to build its profile as a potential mediator in the conflict. “It will be the first meeting after the US-Iranian (nuclear) deal, and (US Secretary of State) John Kerry declined to rule out talking to President Bashar al-Assad,” said Karim Bitar of the Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Studies. “Given that context, one might have hoped for progress, but all indications are that there won’t be any,” he told AFP.



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