Assad open to "preliminary consultations" with Moscow

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Moscow supports Assad in the war, and has pushed for a settlement that would keep the long-time ruler in power in Damascus

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.

But responding to the reports, the moderate Syrian opposition, supported by Western powers, rejected the offer.

Broadcasters quoted a source at Assad's foreign ministry, saying that "Syria is ready to participate in preliminary consultations in Moscow in order to meet the aspirations of Syrians to find a way out of this crisis."

The 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 that 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 that 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.

Twelve Islamic State assets in Iraq and Syria were successfully targeted by coalition forces on Saturday, according to the Combined Joint Task Force.

The United States and its allies executed six strikes in the Syrian border town of Kobani, near Turkey, destroying several buildings and vehicles. Islamic State militants fighting for Kobani have experienced the heaviest bombardment from coalition forces since strikes first began against the group.

Also in Iraq, another six strikes targeted buildings, vehicles and an Islamic State refinery, near al Asad, Mosul, Fallujah, al Qaim and Baiji.

Last week, a Jordanian jet participating in the coalition's efforts was downed in Syria, marking the first such event of the war.

Assad open to "preliminary consultations" with Moscow | Al Bawaba
 
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