Syria ministers say ready to hold talks with opposition

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Syrian officials on Monday called on the opposition to participate in talks to find a solution for the escalating Syrian crisis.

The calls for dialogue were made during an extraordinary session for members of the People’s Council.

The first of these calls was made by the Minister of National Reconciliation, Ali Haidar, who said he was ready to meet with Syrian opposition members.

“I once again say and confirm that we, the governmental party and I, will meet with all opposition members inside and outside Syria without making any exceptions. The president has said that we should hold dialogue with everyone who opposes us in politics. We will even hold dialogue with those who drop arms,” Haidar said.

Also during the session, Information Minister Omran al-Zo'bi guaranteed the safe return of opposition members to Syria and said not all those who bear arms in Syria are terrorists.

“All opposition members outside (Syria) who desire to return can do so at anytime, and they will not be pursued on both the judicial and the security levels,” Zo’bi said.

He added that dialogue with the opposition was “the only means to distinguish between those who are patriotic and the unpatriotic, between the takfiri terrorists and the ones who held arms because they got involved (in doing so) or because of a lack of thinking or because of (seeking) revenge or due to incitement or any other reason.”

The ministers’ statements contradict a report published by Lebanese daily as-Safir quoting people who recently visited Damascus who said that President Bashar al-Assad is “confident” of succeeding in the conflict.

National Coalition leader Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib said in late January he is prepared to hold direct talks with regime representatives who don’t have “blood on their hands,” on condition the talks focus on replacing Assad.

Meanwhile, in Syria, local coordination committees said the death toll on Monday has increased to 99, adding that a rocket targeting Aleppo’s neighborhood of Jabal Badro had killed 50 and destroyed seven buildings.

The Free Syrian Army said it blew up a checkpoint on the road to Damascus’ International Airport, adding that it also destroyed Darusha checkpoint in Rif Dimashq Governorate and killed all shabiha (thugs) present in it.

The SANA revolution network said a mortar shell struck the French hospital in Damascus’ al-Qasaa area, they did not elaborate any further.