Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he is ready to negotiate on “everything” regarding the country’s conflict in proposed talks in Kazakhstan backed by Russia and Turkey.
“We are ready to negotiate about everything,” he said in comments made in an interview to French journalists published by Syrian state media Monday.
The Syrian dictator added it remained unclear who would lead the opposition in any talks in Astana. “We do not yet know,” he said. “Will it be a real Syrian opposition?”
While Assad pledged to discuss all issues in the conflict, he disregarded any opposition groups or figures supported by Saudi Arabia, Britain or France, including the opposition umbrella organization known as the High Negotiations Committee, which Saudi Arabia backs. He said that “Syrian issues” must be discussed by Syrian groups, and not by groups he alluded to be foreign proxies.
Assad also revealed a delegation from Damascus would travel to the Kazakh capital “when the time of the conference is set.”
The talks will effectively sideline the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations, in an embarrassing development for Western diplomats who have tried for years to negotiate a settlement or bring an end to the conflict.