Syria says it’s ready for talks with armed rebels

The Kurdish Globe - - REGIONAL -

Syria is ready to hold talks with the armed op­po­si­tion try­ing to top­ple Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad, the coun­try's for­eign min­is­ter said Mon­day, in the government's most ad­vanced of­fer yet to try to re­solve the 2-year-old civil war through ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Walid al-Moallem did not say whether rebel fight­ers would first have to lay down their arms be­fore ne­go­ti­a­tions could be­gin, a key stick­ing point in the past. Still, the pro­posal marked the first time that a high-rank­ing Syr­ian of­fi­cial has stated pub­licly that the government would meet with op­po­si­tion fight­ers.

"We're ready for a di­a­logue with any­one who's will­ing for it," al-Moallem said in Moscow ahead of talks with his Rus­sian coun­ter­part, "even with those who carry arms. We are con­fi­dent that re­forms will come about not with the help of blood­shed but through di­a­logue."

One rebel com­man­der wel­comed the idea of talks, but only on the con­di­tion that As­sad and those who are re­spon­si­ble for the blood­shed are put on trial.

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. Rus­sia, a close ally of As­sad and his regime's chief in­ter­na­tional ad­vo­cate, of­fered last Wed­nes­day, in con­cert with the Arab League, to bro­ker talks be­tween the rebels and the government.

The pro­posal — which the Krem­lin would be un­likely to float pub­licly with­out first se­cur­ing word from Da­m­as­cus that it would in­deed take part — sug­gested the regime could be warm­ing to the idea of a set­tle­ment as it strug­gles to hold ter­ri­tory and win back ground it has lost to the rebels.

Syria's rebels have scored sev­eral tac­ti­cal vic­to­ries in re­cent weeks, cap­tur­ing the na­tion's largest hy­dro­elec- tric dam and over­tak­ing air­bases in the north­east. In Da­m­as­cus, they have ad­vanced from their strongholds in the sub­urbs into neigh­bor­hoods in the north­east and south­ern rim of the cap­i­tal, while pep­per­ing the cen­ter of the city with mor­tar rounds for days.

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