Head of the so-called Syrian National Coalition Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have met for the first time on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany. “I reminded Khatib that after the creation of the coalition and the appointment of their leader, we immediately demonstrated our interest in maintaining regular contact,” Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying after the meeting on Saturday. “We will make that happen,” Lavrov stated. The meeting came a day after Khatib said the Syrian opposition bloc was ready to negotiate with the Syrian government. He said the government should release prisoners as a gesture of goodwill in exchange for talks. Before the meeting with Khatib, Lavrov met with US Vice President Joe Biden and UN-Arab League Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi to talk about ways to end the nearly two years of unrest in the country.
Khatib also met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Saturday.On January 6, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stated that Damascus was always ready to hold talks with the opposition and political parties and that he would call for a “comprehensive national dialog” after the terrorist activities stopped in the country. However, foreign-backed militant groups continue clashes with the Syrian army across the country. On January 23, the Russian foreign minister took a swipe at the Syrian opposition for its insistence on the removal of Assad from power. Lavrov cited the opposition’s “obsession” with the push to oust Assad as a blow to the peace efforts by the former UN peace envoy for Syria Kofi Annan and his successor Lakhdar Brahimi. Many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed in the turmoil that began in Syria in March 2011. DB/HSN