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Syrias foreign minister calls for unconditional dialogue with opposition

Published: Updated:
Syrian Foreign Minister Omran al-Zo’bi called for “unconditional” dialogue with the country’s opposition to end the two-year conflict.

Zo’bi urged opposition forces to participate in what he called a “national dialogue,” and said that a specialized committee will start communicating with all political forces and figures to facilitate the inception of a national dialogue.

However, the Local Coordination Commitees (LCC), the opposition group inside Syria, rejected the foreign minister’s call, saying that there can’t be any dialogue before the end of violence and bloodshed on ground.

The comments repeated an offer made by President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday to hold discussions with Syria's opposition to end the conflict -- but only with elements he deemed acceptable, not rebel-affiliated groups he termed killers and terrorists led by foreigners.

The main, internationally recognized opposition Syrian National Coalition, based out of Cairo, immediately dismissed President Assad’s offer, sticking to its pre-condition that the president step down before any talks could be considered.

And the tolerated domestic opposition group, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, also snubbed the offer.

Western nations described as essentially empty and detached from reality Assad’s speech outlining a plan to restore peace to Syria while defiantly making no compromises.

In other developments, Britain will host a two-day meeting starting on Wednesday, officials said, bringing together academics and the opposition to prepare for a hypothetical post-Assad Syria.

On Tuesday, at least 70 people were executed by the Syrian regime in the Northern Province Idlib, LCC reported.

Also in Idlib province, opposition fighters shot down a helicopter as it was headed towards the Taftanaz military airbase, which remains under siege by the jihadist Al-Nusra Front and Islamist Ahrar al-Sham groups, AFP reported the Observatory for Human Rights as saying.

Troops still have a stranglehold on Idlib city but most of the province, which borders key opposition backer Turkey, is in the hands of insurgents.

In eastern Syria, a civilian cargo plane was hit while landing at Deir Ezzor military airport as clashes raged nearby, the Observatory said.

Activists said they suspected it was carrying munitions for beleaguered troops defending the base.

The rebels now control large swathes of northern and eastern Syria and half of second city Aleppo, with the remaining isolated army outposts under rebel siege.

In other developments in the area, the Observatory said fighters from the Al-Nusra Front executed three captured soldiers in Deir Ezzor city, although it could not say when.

Overall, the Observatory said 37 people died nationwide on Tuesday.

The United Nations estimates more than 60,000 people have been killed since the revolt against President Assad’s rule erupted in March 2011.