The Free Syrian Army rejects Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem’s offer of dialogue, FSA Chief of Staff Salim Idris told Al Arabiya on Tuesday.
“We as rebels and fighters have clearly expressed our opinion that we don’t trust any initiative made by the regime,” Idris said.
“We don’t consider such invitations to be serious unless they’re officially conveyed to us by (U.N. envoy) Lakhdar Brahimi. We have clear conditions in order to accept dialogue if Brahimi calls for it. The most important condition is that (President Bashar al-Assad) steps down.”
Idris also criticized Sergei Lavrov for acting like “a spokesman for the criminal” Assad, adding: “He lost his legitimacy as Russia’s foreign minister,” and “accuses us of extremism because we defend our people and our country.
“We’re not extremists, and we don’t tend to resolve the struggle through a military (solution). As a matter of fact, we hope violence ceases.
“If Assad announces his resignation and a halt to fighting, the rebels and I are ready to end all fighting operations.”
During talks with Lavrov in Russia, Muallem said the Syrian regime is ready to meet with all parties, including armed groups, who want to engage in dialogue to help end the conflict.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition said it is willing to negotiate a peace deal, but Assad must step down and cannot be part of any settlement.
Meanwhile, Russia renewed calls for opposition fighters and the regime to hold direct negotiations to end the two-year conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people, warning that pressing for a military victory risked destroying Syria.