Syrian National Coalition President Khaled Khoja
Syrian National Coalition President Khaled Khoja Reuters

Syria's exiled opposition announced Saturday that it had declined an invitation from Russia to attend peace talks in Moscow with representatives of President Bashar Al-Assad's government, AFP reported.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesman said earlier this week that Syrian government and opposition representatives would meet for peace talks in Moscow on April 6.

But the exiled Syrian National Coalition said it had discussed the invitation during a meeting of its members in Istanbul and "decided not to take part in the Moscow 2" talks.

Despite this, a coalition source told AFP the invitation was in itself "a major development" because it indicated that key Assad ally Russia "recognizes the Coalition".

"There is no reason to attend the meeting in Moscow, especially when we see attempts on the part of the regime's allies. including Russia and Iran to place Assad center-stage again," the source, Anas al-Abdo told AFP, reiterating rejection of "any political transition that would include Assad".

The National Coalition is the key political representative of Syria's opposition and is officially recognized by much of the international community.

It has participated in several rounds of failed peace talks, including two in Geneva, and insists that Assad must step down.

In January, Russia hosted talks aimed at finding a solution to the four-year-old conflict in Syria that was not attended by the National Coalition.

A domestic opposition group tolerated by Assad's government did take part, however, alongside an official Syrian delegation, but the discussions ended with no concrete results.

More than 215,000 people have been killed since the conflict began, nearly a third of them civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has been trying to mediate between the fighting sides and recently said that the Syrian regime is willing to suspend its aerial bombardment of Aleppo for six weeks to allow for a localized humanitarian ceasefire, part of his efforts to end the nearly four-year war in the country.

The rebels in Aleppo later rejected the proposal, likely due to de Mistura’s earlier comments in which he said Assad was as "part of the solution" to the conflict in Syria.