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Syrian Government Insists: No Conditions on Dialogue

A Syrian official says Damascus is in principle open to dialogue, but not with preconditions, reports Jean Aziz.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at the Opera House in Damascus January 6, 2013, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA. A defiant al-Assad presented what he described as a new initiative on Sunday to end the war in Syria but his opponents dismissed it as a ploy to cling to power. REUTERS/Sana (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT I
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A high-level Syrian official has confirmed that the government in Damascus is open to dialogue initiatives to resolve the ongoing crisis, in particular because Moscow continues to advise Syrian authorities that they must respond to international initiatives in order to improve the regime’s image abroad and to provide their allies with something with which to endorse them. The Russians have also been emphasizing that the armed Syrian opposition faces a dilemma regarding whether to engage the regime in dialogue: agreeing to a compromise — thus forfeiting their call for toppling the regime and therefore possibly further dividing their ranks — or refusing to compromise, which could lose them diplomatic clout.

Despite recognizing the benefits of dialogue, the Syrian official, during a brief visit to Beirut, said that there are two considerations determining the way to deal with such initiatives.The first involves what the regime refers to as "sovereign issues." For instance, the same official stresses that by agreeing to negotiate with only a single, specific Syrian official, the opposition is undermining the dialogue before it even starts, or rather, is confirming that the opposition has no intention of seriously engaging in dialogue. It is obvious that the Syrian official is referring to a statement by Moaz al-Khatib, head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, suggesting Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa as an acceptable negotiator for a dialogue with the regime.

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