Syria is ready to take part in peace talks in Geneva and hopes that the dialogue will help it form a national unity government, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem has said.
The UN Security Council last Friday unanimously approved a resolution endorsing an international road map for a Syrian peace process, a rare show of unity among major powers on a conflict that has claimed more than a quarter of a million lives.
The UN plans to convene peace talks in Geneva towards the end of January.
Moualem said Syria was “ready to participate in the Syrian-Syrian dialogue in Geneva without any foreign interference”.
“This government will compose a constitutional committee to look for a new constitution with a new law of election so the parliamentary election will be held within the period of 18 months, more or less.”
A close adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said Damascus is ready to join the UN-sponsored peace talks with its position bolstered by both Russian backing and the West’s retreat from a hardline anti-Assad approach.
Bouthaina Shaaban on Wednesday said her government approved of UN resolutions passed last week endorsing an international road map for a Syria peace process, a rare display of unity among global powers on a conflict that has killed more than 250,000 people.
The resolutions gave UN blessing to a plan negotiated earlier in Vienna that calls for a ceasefire, talks between the Syrian government and opposition, and a roughly two-year timeline to create a unity government and hold elections.
Shaaban said Damascus perceived a softening of the West’s stance on Assad driven by a spillover of Islamic State militant attacks into its own communities – most recently in Paris on November 13 when shootings and suicide bombings killed 130 people.
Islamic State is the strongest insurgent force in Syria and Assad has said that ousting him would clear the way for Islamist militants to take over the country and endanger the wider world.
Western powers have demanded that Assad quit power as part of any peace settlement. Damascus has rejected such calls.
“It was not easy for the West to retreat. This is the first time that the West’s word has been defeated over Syria … The Russian strategy in getting these (diplomatic) understandings is successful and clever and will bear fruit,” Shaaban said.
“The Russian intervention has had great importance in the Syrian crisis.”
Three months of Russian air strikes twinned with army ground offensives backed by Iranian forces and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have shored up Assad in his western Syrian heartland.
But the obstacles to ending the war remain daunting, with no side in the conflict able to secure a clear military victory.
Despite their agreement at the United Nations, the major powers are bitterly divided on who may represent the opposition as well as on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.