Syrian government agrees in principle to peace conference

Friday 24 May 2013 21.16
Russia has been a strong defender of Bashar al-Assad
Russia has been a strong defender of Bashar al-Assad

Russia has said that the Syrian government has agreed in principle to attend an international peace conference.

The conference has been proposed by Russia and the United States.

Russia also criticised what it called attempts to undermine peace efforts.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said: "Damascus has expressed its readiness in principle to participate in the international conference in order for Syrians themselves to find a political path to a solution."

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said after talks in Moscow that the government would soon decide whether to take part in the conference.

Mr Lukashevich said international action including a 15 May UN General Assembly resolution that praised the opposition and condemned President Bashar al-Assad's forces has "essentially pushed (the opposition) to reject negotiations".

Russia has shielded Mr Assad during the conflict, opposing sanctions against Syria, delivering arms and blocking, with China, three Western-backed UN Security Council resolutions.

At least 80,000 people have died in the more than two-year-old conflict.