MOSCOW, January 17 (RIA Novosti) – Syria’s government is ready to join forces with its current opponents to combat Islamic terrorists, the country’s Foreign Minister said Friday.
“The foremost goal of the Syrian people is resisting and defeating terrorism. We are ready to work with the other party to achieve this goal,” Walid al-Moallem said after talks in Moscow with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Radical Islamists and moderates in the Syrian opposition clashed in recent weeks, with hundreds reported killed in the fighting.
President Bashar Assad’s regime is also ready to exchange prisoners with the opposition, Moallem told a press conference.
Syria’s top diplomat also accused the United States of endorsing terrorists in Syria.
Moallem reiterated that Damascus is ready to participate in the Geneva-2 peace conference on Syria, tentatively set to start on January 22 in Montreux, Switzerland.
The conference should aim to “end bloodshed…and preserve Syria as a sovereign, territorially integral, independent secular state,” Lavrov told the joint press conference.
The goals and possible preconditions of Geneva-2 remain a subject of hot debate. US Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier this week that the conference should lead to the creation of a transitional government for Syria.
Syrian opposition groups remain split over Geneva-2. A number of Islamist groups have refused to attend and are threatening violence against participants, while the prominent Syrian National Coalition has called for the conference to be postponed.
The Syrian opposition delays its decision on participation in Geneva-2 due to “internal squabbles” between various fractions with different foreign backers, Lavrov said.
The US and some Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been accused of supporting Assad’s enemies since the start of the conflict in 2011.
Russia, meanwhile, has backed Assad, selling him weapons and blocking several UN resolutions on Syria which it regards as biased against the regime in Damascus.
BEIRUT – The Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon on Thursday claimed responsibility for the deadly car bombing that hit the northern Beqaa town of Hermel earlier in the day.
“By the grace of God, the headquarters of Iran’s party [Hezbollah] in Hermel was shaken by a martyrdom operation [carried out by] one of Al-Nusra Front’s lions in Lebanon in reply to the party’s crimes against Sunni women and children in Syria,” a statement issued by the group on Twitter said.
“We call upon Sunnis in all parts of Lebanon to close ranks to face Satan’s party, for we have found [the party] to be foolish and cowardly, foolish in its criminal estimations and cowardly as it puts its headquarters among civilians.”
The suicide car bombing earlier in the morning targeted a crowded area near Hermel’s municipal headquarters, leaving three people dead and over 40 injured.
The Al-Qaeda-linked organization announced its presence in Lebanon when it claimed responsibility for a rocket barrage on Hermel on December 17.
Days later, Al-Nusra Front leader Abou Mohammed al-Jawlani said in an interview aired on Al-Jazeera that the group is active on Lebanese soil in order to help the Sunnis of the country face the “injustice” of Shiite Hezbollah.
Two other Al-Qaeda-linked groups have claimed responsibility for the previous suicide bombings to rock Shiite-populated areas of Beirut.
The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the January 2 suicide bombing in Beirut’s southern Dahiyeh area that killed four people.
Their statement came on the same day that the Lebanese army announced the death of Abdullah Azzam Brigades chief Majid al-Majid in their custody.
Majid’s Al-Qaeda offshoot terror group claimed responsibility for the November 19 twin bombings outside the Iranian embassy in southern Beirut that killed at least 20 people.
Shiite-populated areas in Lebanon have been the target of a series of terror attacks after Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in May announced that his Shiite party was fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in the civil war raging in neighboring Syria.