Assad Regime Agrees To Attend Peace Conference, Russia Says
Representatives of President Bashar Assad's regime have agreed "in principle" to attend an international peace conference aimed at ending more than two years of brutal warfare in Syria, Russia's foreign ministry said Friday.
But NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow that Russian diplomats also said it's not known just when such talks might start because it's unclear who would speak for the groups who have been fighting to overthrow the regime. Corey notes that "so far, the opposition has been resisting any peace plan that would allow Assad to stay in power, even on an interim basis."
Opposition groups are meeting in Istanbul to choose a new leader.
Still, The New York Times adds that Russian foreign ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said in a statement that:
"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."
As the Times adds, "Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry had agreed during a meeting in Moscow earlier this month to pull together the peace conference, with Russia responsible for bringing the government of Bashar al-Assad to the table and the Americans focused on securing the participation of the Syrian opposition."
Since anti-Assad protests and fighting began in early 2011, an estimated 80,000 people — many of them civilians — have died in Syria.