Putin says Syria’s Assad open to working with some rebels

Putin also said ‘terrorists’ should not be divided into moderate and not moderate

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he had asked his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad how he would view an armed opposition force that was genuinely ready to combat militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"He answered: 'Positively'," Putin said at a conference with foreign dignitaries in southern Russia, according to Reuters news agency.

Putin also said that it is up to the Syrian people to decide whether embattled president Assad should stay or go.


He added that the Syrian leadership must establish contact with opposition forces that are ready for dialogue. He added that Assad was ready for this dialogue.

The Russian president said that his country had no plans to intervene militarily in Iraq or expand its airstrikes in the region.

Putin added that domestic political problems were also partly to blame for Syria's crisis, and not just Islamist militancy.

Earlier on Thursday, the Russian president had accused the West of playing a “double game” with terrorist groups in Syria, where a U.S.-led coalition has conducted a bombing campaign with its allies.

“It is always difficult to play a double game: declaring a fight against terrorists and simultaneously trying to use some to place pieces on the Middle Eastern chess board to pursue their own interests,” Putin said at a meeting of political scientists known as the Valdai Club.

Putin also said the Syrian government and Kurdish forces should be united to defeat Islamist militants in the war-torn country, and that “terrorists” should not be divided into categories of moderate and not moderate.

In the same time, he said Russia was close to exchanging data about the positions of Islamist militants in Syria with Western countries, something Moscow has wanted for weeks.

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