Syria's state TV says Syria is willing to participate in ''preliminary consultations'' in Moscow aimed at restarting peace talks to end civil war. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Syria said on Saturday (December 27) it is willing to participate in "preliminary consultations" in Moscow aimed at restarting peace talks next year to end its civil war. "Syria is ready to participate in preliminary consultations in Moscow in order to meet the aspirations of Syrians to find a way out of crisis," state television said, quoting a source at the Syrian foreign ministry. Moscow, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has pushed to restart talks that collapsed in Geneva in February. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this month that he wanted Syrian opposition groups to agree among themselves on a common approach before setting up direct talks with the Damascus government. But Lavrov did not specify which opposition groups should take part. Russia has long backed Assad, including with arms supplies for Syria, but he has become a more important ally for Moscow since the 2011. Arab Spring protests toppled several autocrats in the Middle East, some of whom had close ties with Moscow. Assad's government has faced armed rebellion which grew out of protests against his rule four years ago. The government has previously made a distinction between those who have taken up arms and political groups which have remained within the sphere of Assad's rule. "Syria affirms that it will proceed with fighting terrorism wherever and whenever it is needed on Syrian territories," State TV said, quoting the foreign ministry source.