Beirut: The prominent Russian daily Kommersant released a list of 38-names from the Syrian opposition, earmarked to join an upcoming stage of the Vienna talks and to sit down for talks with the Syrian government.
The list was presented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to his American, Saudi and Turkish counterparts and remains incomplete, according to the paper, and is likely to expand in the upcoming days.
Contrary to what many expected, it was a broad list which did not just include pro-Russian opposition members or Damascus-sanctioned ones.
Visibly absent from the list were regime-friendly opposition parties that operate out of Damascus and who were present at the Moscow talks earlier this year. These were supposedly being promoted by the Russian Foreign Ministry as credible alternatives to the Turkish-backed or Saudi-backed Syrian National Coalition and Syrian National Council.
By receiving them in Moscow the Russians were sending a message that these were real parties, with proper structure, and credibility in the Syrian opposition. The list included no members of the armed militias or the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Also prominently absent on the Russian list were heavyweight Baath defectors like ex-Vice-Presidents Abdul Halim Khaddam and Rifaat Al Assad, ex-Prime Minister Riad Hijab, ex-Republican Guard General Manaf Tlass, ex-Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Maqdisi, and ex-Agriculture Minister Asaad Mustafa.
The list did include figures who have been highly critical of Russia and its military surge in Syria such as President of the Syrian Coalition Khalid Al Khoja and his three predecessors, Hadi Al Bahra, Ahmad Al Jarba, and Muath Al Khatib.
The Coalition’s Secretary-General was on the list, Badr Jamous, and so was Farouq Tayfour of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Among the more moderate opposition names the list included Haitham Manaa and Hasan Abdul Azeem of the National Coordination Committees, the actor Jamal Sulaiman, and the Scotland-based Syrian tycoon Ayman Asfari.
Two defectors from Damascus were the former Islamic MP in the Syrian Parliament Mohammad Habash and ex-Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil, a ranking communist. The list also included Louai Hussein, a prominent opposition figure who recently left Syria, the Kurdish leader Saleh Al-Muslim, the economics professor Aref Dalilah, the Paris-based economist Samir Aita, and the writer Michel Kilo.