Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), gestures with a rose before a meeting with U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura during Syria peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: Syria’s opposition is “not against” direct talks with the country’s government, RIA news agency quoted Salim Al Muslat, spokesman for the main Syrian opposition alliance in Geneva, as saying on Tuesday.

“We are not against the beginning of direct talks,” RIA quoted Al Muslat, who is chief spokesman for the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee, as saying.

The group also said that Russia’s withdrawal of forces from the country will help peace talks in Geneva.

The pullout ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin is a positive step which will help to move forward the negotiations, Al Muslet told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday. Syria’s opposition wants to see actions on the ground supporting Putin’s announcement, he said.

Putin, whose military intervention last year in support of Bashar Al Assad’s regime turned the tide in Syria’s five-year civil war, ordered the partial pullout on Monday. The surprise move puts pressure on the Syrian government and opposition groups to reach a peace deal at talks that resumed in Geneva on Monday. Russia has urged the Syrian leader to be constructive in the negotiations to end the conflict.

The HNC wants a serious partner at the talks, while President Bashar Al Assad’s proposal for a national unity government means the preservation of current rule, Al Muslet said. The Syrian opposition insists on a transitional government as part of any agreement, he said.

Syria’s regime is indicating that it will only accept a limited role for the opposition in government, and that discussing Al Assad’s position is a red line. The opposition, backed by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, continues to insist that Al Assad must step down at the start of a transitional period.

Meanwhile, a senior aide to Al Assad said Damascus expects the United States to apply greater pressure on parties opposed to a peace process in the country, RIA news agency reported.

“We expect that the USA will apply greater pressure on those who are against the resolution of the situation in Syria,” RIA quoted adviser Bouthaina Shaaban as saying.

Shaaban also said the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, announced by Putin on Monday, was a natural step and Damascus welcomed co-ordination between the United States and Russia, RIA reported.

In Tehran, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader has told the visiting Syrian deputy foreign minister that Iran hopes Syria peace talks in Geneva will be a success and that the Damascus government will be “victorious against enemies”.

The official IRNA news agency cited Ali Akbar Velayati as telling Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Tuesday that Tehran officials “are hopeful that you succeed in the talks as you were successful in war and defending Syrian territory”.

Velayati, an adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that “despite plenty of damage to Syria, the country resisted serious attacks, equivalent to a little world war, and became victorious”.

He said that Iran, as well as Iraq and the Lebanese Hezbollah group, played a key role in helping Damascus’ government.