News / Middle East

Russia: Syria Agrees to Participate in Conference

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Taliban Attacks Heart of Afghan CapitalRussia says the Syrian government has agreed in principle to attend a proposed international peace conference on the country's future.

A spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry made the announcement Friday but said it is impossible to set a date yet because it is not clear yet who will speak for the Syrian opposition.

Moaz al-Khatib's Transition Plan

-Gives Syrian President Bashar al-Assad 20 days to accept plan and start handing over powers
-Calls for Assad to dissolve parliament
-Gives Assad and his family safe exit from Syria
-Interim government will restructure the security and military systems
-All political prisoners and detainees will be released
-All Syrian territories will be opened to international monitors
-U.N. will appoint an international mediator for Syria
-All parties involved in fighting in Syria will stop using heavy weapons
Russia and the United States have proposed opening the peace conference next month in Geneva. A senior State Department official confirmed to VOA that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet Monday in Paris on the latest plans for the talks.

More than 80,000 people have been killed and  several million displaced since the start of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad two years ago.

Meanwhile, the State Department says involvement in Syria by Lebanese-based Hezbollah militants risks dragging Lebanon into a foreign war. Fighting this week between backers and opponents of the Assad regime killed 23 people this week in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell says the United States fully supports Lebanon's stability, security, and sovereignty. Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants have been fighting alongside Syrian-government forces against the rebels.

France has said Iran must be barred from the Syrian peace talks. It says it cannot see how a country that threatens regional stability can be allowed to take part. Russia insists Iran be included. The United States has not yet decided who can and cannot participate.

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