Damascus ready to enter Geneva peace talks: Syrian FM

AFP , Thursday 24 Dec 2015

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem speaks at a press conference after meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on December 24, 2015 (Photo: AFP)

Syria is ready to participate in peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending its brutal civil war, the country's foreign minister said Thursday during an official visit to China.

"Syria is ready to participate in the Syrian-Syrian dialogue in Geneva without any foreign interference," Walid Muallem said during a press briefing following his meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.

China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which last week gave its unanimous support to a plan to end the Syrian conflict by summoning rebels and the regime to the negotiating table.

"Our delegation will be ready as soon as we receive a list of the opposition delegation", Muallem said.

He added Syria was also waiting to receive a list of "terrorist organisations" that would not be allowed to participate in the talks.

The UN tasked Jordan with creating the banned list, which was submitted Friday. Named groups included the Islamic State and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front.

"We hope that this dialogue will be successful to help us in having a national unity government," Muallem said.

He added Damascus would "compose a constitutional committee to look for a new constitution with a new law of election so the parliamentary election will be held within the period of 18 months, more or less".

With crucial backing from the United States and Russia, the UN plan aims to agree a ceasefire in Syria, possibly in January, when talks could also begin.

Muallem's comments appeared to be the first time since the beginning of the Vienna peace process in October that Syria's government has responded so favorably to a new round of peace talks.

It would be the third round of talks in Geneva - the last session, in early 2014, took place but did not bear fruit.

China also announced Thursday it would extend an additional $40 million of humanitarian aid to Syria's government and advance cooperation to address the country's "urgent economic issues".

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