The Straits Times
Published on Feb 25, 2013

Syrian regime says ready for talks with armed rebels


MOSCOW (AFP) - The Syrian regime is ready for talks with armed rebels and anyone who favours dialogue, President Bashar al-Assad's foreign minister said in Moscow on Monday in the first such offer by a top Syrian official.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem was in Moscow for talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, whose country is one of the few big powers to still maintain ties with Assad's regime.

Russia has renewed calls for rebels and regime to engage in direct negotiations to end the two-year conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people, warning that pressing for a military victory risked destroying Syria.

"We are ready for dialogue with all who want dialogue, including those who are carrying arms," Mr Muallem said at the talks with Mr Lavrov, in an apparent reference to the rebels battling the Assad regime.