The Syrian government is not ready to engage in peace talks with radical opposition forces, who have publicly called for foreign military intervention, a Syrian minister said on Wednesday.
The Syrian government earlier said that it was ready to join peace talks without any preconditions.
“We are not ready to negotiate with terrorists. And we don’t think that the United Nations, Russia, the United States or any other party involved [in the peace process] would ask us to negotiate with terrorists,” Information Minister Omran Zoubi said in an Arab-language interview with the Russia Today channel.
President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which is still recognized as legitimate by the United Nations, routinely refers to the Syrian National Coalition and other opposition groups pressing for the regime’s overthrow as “terrorists.”
“We would negotiate only with those Syrians, whose hands are not stained with blood and who have never voiced aggressive anti-Syrian intentions, who have never called for a foreign intervention,” Zoubi went on.
He added that “now the ball is on the side of those who rejects the Geneva conference in principle and who make preconditions for their participation.”
Later in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on the Syrian opposition and their supporters from abroad to stop disrupting preparations for the international peace conference, which, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, might convene in mid-November.
“All of them should realize their responsibility and stop attempts to undermine the process of preparing the conference, with a purpose to reanimate the military scenario,” the Russian top diplomat said.
Lavrov said that all sides to the conflict in Syria should accept an invitation to attend the Geneva-2 conference without any preconditions and on the basis of last year’s Geneva communique.
The document, agreed on in Geneva last summer by all the key parties with an interest in the Syria issue, including the United States, unequivocally calls for a transitional administrative body to be formed through negotiations between the authorities and the opposition, which will control the country until nationwide elections.