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Assad Regime Ready for Unconditional Talks with Rebels - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem speaks during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on February 25, 2013. (AFP)

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem speaks during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on February 25, 2013. (AFP)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Al-Assad’s regime is ready to enter talks with the armed opposition, Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem said in Moscow on Monday.

Moallem said his government was ready to hold talks with the armed opposition, without mentioning any preconditions, such as forcing the rebels to lay down arms first.

“We are ready for dialogue with all who want dialogue, including those who are carrying arms,” the Syrian foreign minister said.

Moallem is in Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, whose country is one of the few big powers still maintaining ties with Assad’s regime.

The Moallem-Lavrov talks came a day before Russia’s top diplomat meets new US Secretary of State John Kerry in Berlin for the first time, with the Syria crisis expected to be at the top of the agenda.
“We feel that Russia can play a key role in convincing the (Syrian) regime that there is need for political transition,” said a State Department official travelling with Kerry.

Still, the offer by Moallem marks the first time that a high-ranking Syrian official has stated publicly that the government would meet with opposition fighters.

Past government offers for talks with the opposition have included a host of conditions, such as for the rebels to first lay down their weapons. Those proposals have been swiftly rejected by both activists outside the country as well as rebels on the ground.

Syria’s 23-month-old conflict, which has killed more than 70,000 people and destroyed many of the country’s cities, has repeatedly confounded international efforts to bring the parties together to end the bloodshed.

On Sunday alone, according to a toll compiled by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 105 people were killed in violence across the country.

Both sides in the conflict in recent weeks have floated offers and counter offers to hold talks aimed at resolving the crisis.

In a speech in January, Assad offered to lead a national dialogue to end the bloodshed, but also said he would not talk with the armed opposition and vowed to keep on fighting. The opposition rejected the proposal.

This month, the leader of the Syrian National Coalition, the umbrella group for opposition parties, said he would be open to discussions with the regime that could pave the way for Assad’s departure, but that they government must first release tens of thousands of detainees. The government refused.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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