Smoke rises after what forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said were warehouses for rebel fighters in al-Maslamiyeh village.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Embattled Syrian president Bashar Assad has expressed a willingness to participate in “preliminary consultations” hosted by Moscow that might lead to peace talks with his opposition, according to state-run Syrian television reports aired on Saturday.
Responding to the reports, however, the moderate Syrian opposition supported by Western powers, rejected the offer.
Broadcasters quoted a source at Assad’s foreign ministry, as saying “Syria is ready to participate in preliminary consultations in Moscow in order to meet the aspirations of Syrians to find a way out of crisis.”
Opposition, on the contrary, said there was no initiative to explore.
“Russia does not have a clear initiative,” opposition leader Hadi al-Bahra said from Cairo on Saturday, “and what is called for by Russia is just a meeting and dialogue in Moscow with no specific paper or initiative.”
Moscow supports Assad in the war and has pushed for a settlement that would keep the long-time ruler in power in Damascus.
Washington, supporting moderate opposition forces since 2012, says Assad has lost all legitimacy, committed war crimes and cannot retain power in any final peace agreement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this month he wanted Syrian opposition groups to agree among themselves on a common approach before setting up direct talks with the Damascus government.
Lavrov did not, however, specify which opposition groups should take part.Reuters contributed to this report.