March 11, 2016 / 9:33 AM / 2 years ago

Russia expects Syrian government to attend Geneva peace talks next week

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Bashar al-Assad’s government has said its delegates will attend peace talks on the Syrian conflict due to start in Geneva next week, Russia’s foreign ministry said on Friday.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais in Damascus, in this handout picture provided by SANA on February 20, 2016. Picture taken February 20, 2016. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

Damascus has yet to publicly confirm it will be taking part in the talks.

Asked whether Russia, a close ally of Assad, was encouraging Damascus to attend, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “They’re not refusing.”

“They said straight away that they are taking part, they’re ready, they will be the first to arrive, wherever is needed,” she said.

The Syrian foreign minister is expected to formally announce his government’s position on the Geneva talks at a news conference in Damascus on Saturday.

Reporting by Denis Dyomkin in MOSCOW and Tom Perry in BEIRUT; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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