February 25, 2013 - 19:54 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Syria is ready for talks with its armed opponents, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday, February 25 in the clearest offer yet of negotiations with rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reported.
But Moualem said at the same time Syria would pursue its fight "against terrorism", alluding to the conflict with rebels in which the United Nations says 70,000 people have been killed.
Assad and his foes are locked in a bloody stalemate after nearly two years of combat, destruction and civilian suffering.
"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 at a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Moaz Alkhatib, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, said in Cairo he had not had held any contacts about talks with Damascus, but had postponed trips to Russia and the United States "until we see how things develop".
Syria's government and the political 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 and left millions more homeless and hungry.
But the opposition has said any political solution must be based on the removal of Assad, whose family has ruled Syria since 1970.