Syrian Government Willing to Talk to Armed Opposition, Says Foreign Minister
Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday that his government is ready to engage in talks with armed rebels.
Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Mr al-Moualem as saying:
“We are ready for dialogue with everyone who wants it … Even with those who have weapons in their hands. Because we believe that reforms will not come through bloodshed but only through dialogue.”
The Foreign Minister made the comments in Moscow, prior to a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“What’s happening in Syria is a war against terrorism,” he said “We will strongly adhere to a peaceful course and continue to fight against terrorism.”
The comments follow a similar statement by another government minister, Ali Haidar, last week. Mr Moualem’s remarks will be seen as more significant, however, because he is part of President Assad’s inner circle.
Previous promises by the Syrian government to engage in peace talks have contained proviso’s saying that they would not talk to ‘foreign-backed terrorists’ – which implied that they would not talk with any of the armed rebel groups fighting on the ground in Syria’s civil war. Although it has not been made clear whether or not the Syrian government has any pre-conditions for talks to go ahead or not, today’s statement appears to be a step forward.
Opposition leaders from the Syrian National Coalition have said that they are willing to engage in peace talks, but that President Assad must step down and must not be part of any negotiations. This has effectively made any peace talks impossible, and Russia has led calls for opposition groups to drop any such pre-conditions.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition has said it is willing to negotiate a peace deal to end the country’s civil war but that President Bashar al-Assad must step down and cannot be a party to any settlement.