Syria opposition chief laments Damascus refusal to talk

Syria opposition chief laments Damascus refusal to talk

BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
Syria opposition chief laments Damascus refusal to talk

Sheikh Moaz Al-Khatib, head of the Syrian opposition, listens during the Munich Security Conference on February 1, 2013 in Munich, southern Germany. AFP photo

Syria's opposition leader on Sunday said the Damascus regime had given "a very negative" message to the world by failing to welcome his offer for peace talks to end the nearly two-year conflict.

"The regime has lost a chance to engage in a dialogue, and given a very negative message inside and outside," the country, Khatib said in a statement posted on his official Facebook page.

Khatib, who is seeking to end the iron-fisted rule of President Bashar al-Assad, has said that his group was ready for talks with Assad's regime -- subject to conditions including the release of 160,000 detainees.

He also said he sought dialogue with regime members who did not have "blood on their hands" and asked that Assad dispatch his deputy, Vice President Faruk a-Sharaa, for talks.

On Friday Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said the government is prepared to have a dialogue with its political opponents but without "preconditions." "The door is open, the negotiating table is there, welcome to any Syrian who wants to have dialogue with us. We are serious about the question of dialogue," Zohbi said on state television.

"When you speak of dialogue, it means dialogue without conditions, which excludes no one. But if someone comes to me and says 'I want to talk about this issue or I'll kill you', that's not a dialogue," he said, adding: "There must be no preconditions." The United Nations estimates that more than 60,000 people have been killed since the revolt against Assad's regime began in March 2011.