Syria talks offer stands despite Assad silence

Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:02am EST
 
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By Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO (Reuters) - Syria's main opposition leader signaled on Monday that his offer of talks with the government to end the country's 22-month-old civil war was still open, a day after a deadline he had set passed without a response.

Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib, speaking after talks with the head of the Arab League in Cairo, said President Bashar al-Assad's government had not responded by Sunday to his initiative to discuss a transition of power.

"The regime has not given a clear answer so far, clearly, frankly, that it accepts leaving to spare destruction and blood," he told reporters in Cairo.

"No meetings have been arranged, and no formal contact with any party has happened so far."

Pressed to say whether his offer was still open despite the timeline he had set, Alkhatib said: "We are still waiting for the government response and then we are going to study that."

The SNC is an umbrella group of most of Syria's opposition political forces.

International Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi discussed the initiative with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby on Sunday as a deadline set by Alkhatib for talks with the government on ending the conflict passed with no sign of movement.

The opposition leader said last week that Assad's government must release thousands of women prisoners by Sunday, February 10, or he would consider his offer to have been rejected.   Continued...

 
Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib speaks to the media after meeting with Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo February 11, 2013. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih