Assad: Syria prepared to negotiate

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says his government is willing to negotiate as long as terrorist organisations are not a party to the talks.

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“We are ready today to start the negotiations with the opposition. But it depends on the definition of opposition,” Assad said in an exclusive interview with EFE in Damascus.

“Opposition, for everyone in this world, doesn’t mean militant. There’s a big difference between militants, terrorists and opposition,” Assad said.

His remarks coincided with an announcement on Thursday by Syria’s main political and armed opposition factions gathered in Saudi Arabia, in which they expressed their support for the launching of UN-mediated peace talks with representatives of Assad’s government.

Those groups also agreed to form a delegation that would represent the opposition in future negotiations aimed at achieving a political solution to the Syrian conflict, which erupted in March 2011.

Asked about his government’s willingness to negotiate with the opposition starting on January 1, a target date established at a meeting of major world powers last month in Vienna, Assad said that “since the very beginning of the conflict in Syria, we adopted the dialogue approach with every party that is involved in the Syrian conflict”.

But he added that “we’ve been seeing that some countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United States and some Western countries, wanted the terrorist groups to join these negotiations”.

“They want the Syrian government to negotiate with the terrorists, something I don’t think anyone would accept in any country.”