Russia says Syrian government agrees in principle to conference

Reuters News
Posted: May 24, 2013 4:02 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday the Syrian government had agreed in principle to attend an international peace conference proposed by Russia and the United States, and criticized what it called attempts to undermine peace efforts.

"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," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said after talks in Moscow on Wednesday the government would soon decide whether to take part in the conference aimed at bringing government and opposition representatives together for talks.

Lukashevich said international action including a May 15 U.N. 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 Assad during the more than two-year-old conflict that has killed at least 80,000 people, opposing sanctions against Syria, delivering arms and blocking, with China, three Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions.

(Reporting by Thomas Grove; Writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Elizabeth Piper)