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Assad ready for talks, 'fully commits' to end violence - Lavrov

Published time: February 07, 2012 12:04
Edited time: February 08, 2012 00:36

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) talks to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) in Damascus February 7, 2012 (Reuters / SANA)

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Syria’s President Assad has agreed to talks with the opposition and will follow the Arab League’s roadmap, increasing the number of observers in the country, even in the most hostile areas in Syria.

This follows talks with the Russian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has announced that President Assad has agreed to send a government delegation to Moscow to meet with representatives of the opposition.

Assad stands firm in his resolve to stop violence in his country, wherever it should come from, said Lavrov. The parties reaffirmed their readiness to use the Arab League’s initiative to find “a swift way out of the crisis.”

­Main outcomes of the meeting:

- Assad is ready for talks with the opposition

- Assad agrees to keep to the Arab League’s peace plan

- Assad calls to continue the League’s observing mission

- Assad urges to boost the number of monitors

- Assad commits to ending the violence

- Referendum to be called shortly to vote on the new constitution

- Syria to hold soon parliamentary elections

- Russia to coordinate talks between Assad and the opposition

Damascus is to shortly announce a national referendum to draw up a new constitution. According to President Assad, the text of the new constitution has already been drafted and will soon be published in newspapers and on the web. It is set to deprive the ruling political party of its monopoly. Officials expect the referendum to be set for March. After the referendum, the country will go to parliamentary polls, so far planned for May.

The opposition Syrian National Council replied it does not object to Russia mediating the talks.

Syria is notifying the Arab League that it is interested in the League continuing its work and increasing the number of observers,” declared Lavrov. The League can make its decision now, but Damascus is definitely giving the green light to such a move, he added.

Moscow has called on the League to expand its observing mission, dubbing it a crucial stabilizing factor for Syria.

Lavrov's visit to Syria came amid international anger over Russia and China’s veto of what they saw as a “premature” UN Security Council vote. The Russian FM dubbed the resolution draft text “one-sided” and international reaction to the veto “hysterical.”

The UK and US simultaneously withdrew their ambassadors to Damascus Monday, with the UK Foreign Secretary calling President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime “murderous and doomed.” Italy, Spain and France reportedly recalled their ambassadors from Syria on Tuesday.

Watch additional report from RT's Sara Firth, who has just returned from Syria