Syrian government ready to participate in UN-backed peace talks

 The Syrian government is ready to take part in UN-sponsored talks planned next month with the aim of resolving the country's five-year conflict, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said on Thursday.

"Syria is ready to participate in the inter-Syrian dialogue to be held in Geneva without foreign interference," al-Moallem said at a press briefing in the Chinese capital Beijing, according to Syrian state television.

The broadcaster quoted al-Moallem as saying that the government delegation would be ready after Damascus receives the list of opposition representatives at the negotiations, the exact date of which has yet to be set.

The Syrian official, who is currently visiting China, called on the United Nations to block funding for what he termed as "terrorists" in a reference to rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Last week, the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed a plan for a peace process in Syria, calling for regime-opposition negotiations to begin in January and tasking the UN with aiding the implementation and monitoring of a nationwide ceasefire.

The plan also envisages the establishment of a transitional government in Syria within six months and new elections within 18 months.

The opposition has said it is ready to attend the negotiations, but insisted that al-Assad must have no role in the transitional process. 

Al-Assad's fate is still a main sticking point among the major powers.

Russia and Iran, al-Assad's main allies, refuse any agreement that would force him to step down, while the US and other countries backing the rebels want him out of power.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told al-Moallem that Beijing would provide 40 million yuan (6.2 million dollars) in aid to Syria.

Beijing would also continue to promote peace and dialogue, "and offer humanitarian aid to the country to the best of its abilities," the Chinese official said, according to Xinhua news agency.

More than 250,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Syria's conflict since it began in 2011 with peaceful anti-government protests.

More than half the country's pre-war population of 22.4 million people have been internally displaced or forced to flee from their homeland.

Inside Syria, dozens of civilians started Thursday to leave al-Waer district, the last rebel-held area in the central city of Homs, a monitoring group reported.

Their evacuation marks the second phase of a UN-sponsored deal between al-Assad's regime and rebels in the area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

On December 9, some 750 people left al-Waer for areas in the central province of Hama and the north-western province of Idlib.

Al-Waer was besieged by regime forces for almost two years. 

Last update: Thu, 24/12/2015 - 16:28

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