The Straits Times
Published on Feb 26, 2013

Syrian government says it is 'ready' for talks with rebels


MOSCOW (AFP) - The Syrian government said Monday it was "ready" for talks with rebels as the opposition overturned its planned boycott of a conference to conside the "next steps" in ending the deadly two-year conflict.

As diplomatic efforts to end the conflict kicked into high gear, President Bashar al-Assad's foreign minister said the authorities in Damascus were ready to talk to armed rebels.

"We are ready for dialogue with all who want dialogue, including those who are carrying arms," Walid al-Muallem said on a visit to Moscow - the first such offer by a top Syrian official.

Mr Muallem held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, whose country is one of the few big powers to maintain ties with the Syrian government.