Syria says ready to talk with armed opposition

Syria is ready to hold talks with its armed opponents, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday, in the clearest offer yet of negotiations with rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

But Moualem said Syria would continue its fight “against terrorism”, a reference to its conflict with anti-Assad rebels in which the United Nations says 70,000 people have been killed.

“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,” Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted Moualem as saying.
He was speaking in Moscow, a staunch ally of Assad, where he was meeting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Meanwhile, Moaz al-Khatib, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, told reporters in Cairo that he had not yet been in contact with Damascus about any talks offer, but said he had postponed trips to Russia and the United States “until we see how things develop”.
Syria’s government and opposition have both suggested in recent weeks they are prepared for some contacts - softening their previous outright rejection of talks to resolve a conflict which has driven nearly a million Syrians out of the country.

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