Russia says Syria will attend Geneva peace talks


President Vladimir Putin (L) and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet Russian Ambassadors in the Foreign Ministry, in Moscow, on July 9, 2012. Putin said Syria needed a dialogue between the regime and opposition forces to ensure a lasting peace.


Alexander Nemenov

talks in Geneva in June.

"We note with satisfaction that Damascus has confirmed its readiness in principle to participate in an international conference in the interest of the Syrians themselves finding a political path to a settlement of the conflict that has been devastating for the country and the region," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said in a statement.

But the Syrian opposition doesn't seem to believe what Russia has said, calling on the Syrian regime to make its own statement.

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"We would like to hear that statement from the Assad government. This has been related to us through the Russians, I have no idea why the Syrians are silent," Louay Safi, spokesman for the National Coalition, told Agence France-Presse at a meeting of the main Syrian opposition group in Istanbul.

"We need more clarity. The announcement is still very vague. And why is it not made by Damascus?"

The June peace conference, being called "Geneva 2," would be aimed at negotiating an end to Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 90,000 people in the past two years. It is being jointly organized by Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, and the United States, which supports the Syrian rebels attempting to overthrow him.

Members of the opposition have said that in order to move forward with the conference, the National Coalition would need international guarantees that the peace talks would lead to Assad's resignation.

The Syrian conflict has spilled over borders, with a flood of refugees (the UN estimates 1.5 million) seeking shelter in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, while stray mortar shells and gunfire cross the border into the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

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