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Vitaly Naumkin

RIAC Vice-President, President of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Russia can use the participation of Mohammed Alloush, a member of the Syrian radical terrorist group Jaish al-Islam, in the Syria peace talks as a bargaining chip to negotiate the participation of the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union in the Geneva negotiations, Vitaly Naumkin, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Oriental Studies, told TASS on Tuesday

"An element of bargaining is possible," Naumkin said adding that Russia could demand that Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim be invited to Geneva alongside with Mohammed Alloush.

"Russia's position is rather tough. Organizations, which we consider to be terrorist, should not participate in the talks. They just should not be there. We do not feel like making any concessions so far," the expert went on to say.

Naumkin ,however, believes that a compromise is not utterly impossible. "For example, these people may announce that they have changed their platform and pledge that they will not call for creating a Caliphate, etc," he said.

"The Saudis keep saying that they [representatives of the Jaish al-Islam movement] have confirmed a certain evolution [in their stance] although it still seems to be quite doubtful," Naumkin stressed.

He did not rule out that the involvement of Jaish al-Islam members in the Syria peace talks could be a topic for discussion at the forthcoming International Syria Support Group in Munich, Germany, on February 11.

"Our partners keep emphasizing that this group operates in southern Syria where moderate [Syrian] opposition is dominating. Therefore, everything there is allegedly all right and no one should be touched," Naumkin told TASS.

"In this respect, Jaish al-Islam may become a source for bargaining while we may come under certain pressure," he stressed.

Naumkin said that another Saudi-backed terrorist organization - Ahrar al-Sham- is unlikely to participate in the Syria peace talks. "They [the representatives of this group] were present at a meeting in Al Riyadh. However, today it is absolutely clear that Ahrar al-Islam is uniting with Al-Qaeda and the Jabhat al-Nusra Front. They are jointly fighting in battles. I believe that no one is going to have any objections because everything is clear," the expert said.

He agreed that some ethnic Kurds were still present at the Geneva talks. "The Kurds have about a dozen very small groups. Ethnic Kurds are members of various opposition forces such as the Syrian National Council, for example, and other groups. But, it's not the point. There are Kurds in the Turkish government as well but that does not mean anything," Naumkin said.

"There is a party, which we consider to be the most influential because it fights against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group [banned in Russia]," the Russian expert went on to say.

"It is the Democratic Union party of Saleh Muslim. We insist that this influential force take part in the talks," Naumkin stressed.

Source: TASS

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