Unofficial Peace Talks Held in Moscow: Thirty-two members of various opposition groups and six members of the Syrian government met in Moscow, under the moderation of Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Jaafari. The National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition group, refused to attend the talks, with Monzer Akbik stating that the Russia-sponsored talks were “an initiative to reinvent the Assad regime in another form.” President Bashar al-Assad, said he wasn’t “pessimistic” about talks.

The conference did not address disputed issues and all attendees agreed to hold further talks at an undetermined date. Meanwhile, the State Department commented, ”There can never be a stable, inclusive Syria under [Assad’s] leadership.” In other news, the U.S. cut off covert operations aid to the Syrian opposition, reportedly as a result of lack-luster military performance, but will continue providing and supporting the Defense Department’s “the effort to train and equip [the rebels].” Katarina Montgomery argues, “With the U.S. largely absent from the political process, Russia, a staunch ally of the Assad regime, has advanced its own proposal for a political settlement in Syria.” www.mesop.de