Damascus welcomed a US-Russian effort to broker peace talks in Syria Thursday, hours after Washington reiterated that any deal would have to involve the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The Arab League and Syrian opposition also accepted the plan, which would convene a conference between regime and opposition officials to seek an end to the country’s bloody two-year civil war.
“Syria welcomes the US-Russian rapprochement,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, AFP reported. “It is confident that the Russian position, which is based on the principles of the UN Charter and international law, will not change.”
Moscow has been one of Assad’s strongest backers, selling arms to the regime while attempting to shield it from criticism in the international arena.
The Western-backed National Coalition umbrella group had welcomed the proposal on Wednesday, Al Jazeera reported, but objected to Assad’s remaining in power.
“The Assad regime has dropped all initiatives that have been presented to resolve the crisis and has continued to put sticks in the wheels of any agreement or committee or team, Arab or international, over the past two years,” it said in a statement.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Assad would have to step down as part of any deal, clarifying a statement two days earlier that Assad’s future would be decided by the Syrian people.
The proposal was also endorsed by the Arab League and was described by league chief Nabil Elaraby as “a significant and positive development.” Nabil urged all parties to the war in Syria not to squander the chance and work together to form a transitional government, Reuters reported.