Russia's pointman on the Syria crisis said Friday that President Bashar al-Assad's regime will be represented by the foreign minister at a historic round of peace talks due to be held in Geneva next month.
"It will be headed by Foreign Minister Walid Muallem," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies following talks in Geneva with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and a US negotiating team.
Gatilov added that the Syrian opposition had still not come up with a set delegation because of internal division and that this threatened to scuttle the January 24 talks.
"Without settling this issue, it will hard to expect that the conference will be held," Gatilov was quoted as saying.
The Russian negotiator added that he may conduct one more round of talks with US officials after their refusal on Friday to agree to Iran's participation at the so-called Geneva II meeting.
"We may need additional contacts at the ministerial level in order to clear up the situation around Iran," Gatilov said.
Brahimi said after Friday's preparatory talks in Geneva that the United States had rejected Iran's involvement but that Saudi Arabia was on the list of three dozen nations invited to the talks.