(MOSCOW) — Syria dropped its first hint Tuesday that it would at least be willing to discuss the possible departure of President Bashar al-Assad as a way of ending the 18-month-conflict between government and opposition forces that has cost an estimated 21,000 to 23,000 lives.
During talks with Russian leaders in Moscow, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil stressed his country would not start negotiations for a peace deal with the condition that it must include al-Assad’s resignation.
Rather, Jamil said “any problems can be discussed during negotiations. We are even ready to discuss this issue” of al-Assad leaving power.
Rebel forces, as well as Washington and its Western allies, have all been adamant that a political transition has to be a condition for peace talks.
However, Lakhdar Brahimi, the new United Nations special emissary to Syria who took over for Kofi Annan, believes it’s still too early to demand al-Assad’s departure.
Meanwhile, Jamil also dismissed the latest warning by President Obama that the U.S. would consider military intervention if the Syrian government moves its chemical and biological arsenals or attempts to deploy them against enemies of the state.
The Syrian official remarked, “Obama’s threats are simply propaganda linked to the U.S. elections.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Schams Elwazer, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Tim Hume, CNN
Steve Visser and Masoud Popalzai, CNN
Sheena McKenzie, CNN
James Griffiths, CNN