Iran welcomes Syria opposition chief's readiness to talk

3rd February 2013, Comments 0 comments

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Sunday welcomed Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib's readiness to hold talks under conditions with the Syrian regime.

"It's a good step forward," Salehi said at the Munich Security Conference, where he said he had held a "very good meeting" with Khatib.

The talks were the first between the Iranian foreign minister and Khatib, who became Syrian National Coalition leader late last year and who also met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Vice President Joe Biden in Munich on Saturday.

Addressing participants at the conference, where three days of talks wrap up later Sunday, Salehi said he was pleased to have met the Syrian opposition chief and that they had decided to continue contacts.

Khatib reiterated at the start of the conference an earlier surprise announcement that he was ready for dialogue with the Damascus regime -- subject to conditions, including the release of 160,000 detainees.

The idea of direct talks has however already been rejected by the Syrian National Council, the main body in the coalition, which opposes any negotiations before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's departure.

Salehi said that his country was "ready to be part of a solution" in Syria.

Syria ally Iran has backed Assad's accusation that the nearly two-year-old uprising against his regime is politically, financially and militarily backed by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Salehi said the opposition and government in Syria needed to be able to get around the negotiating table and that he had stressed to Khatib the need for the two sides to meet and organise presidential elections.

Lavrov also welcomed Khatib's initiative, adding: "If we take into account the fact that the coalition was founded on a refusal to engage in a dialogue with the regime, it's a very important step."


© 2013 AFP

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