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Putin Says Assad Ready For Talks With Some Armed Opposition Groups

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) met his Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) in Moscow on October 20.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) met his Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) in Moscow on October 20.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad told him he was ready to talk to armed opposition groups if they are committed to dialogue and to combating Islamic State (IS).

Putin made the remarks on October 22, two days after Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow for talks with the Russian leader.

Speaking at a forum in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin said he and Assad had talked about the need for a political solution to the nearly five-year conflict that has left some 250,000 people dead and four million homeless.

Putin also said he believed that his country's military operation in Syria could create the right conditions for progress in talks on the future of the country.

However, some Western governments, led by the United States, have criticized Russian air strikes in Syria, saying they have mainly targeted opponents of Assad -- some backed by the West -- and, as a result, have strengthened the hand of IS extremists

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told a Security Council meeting on October 22 that Russia's actions in Syria were fortifying Islamic State militants, killing dozens of civilians, forcing thousands to flee their homes, and destroying schools and markets.

Power referred to a Reuters analysis of Russian Defense Ministry data that found almost 80 percent of Russia's declared targets in Syria have been in areas not held by Islamic State.

"By attacking non-extremist groups Russia has boosted, perversely, the relative strength of [Islamic State], which has taken advantage of this campaign by seizing new territory in rural Aleppo," Power said.

"Since Russia began its strikes the Syrian map has shifted in [Islamic State's] favor," she said.

The Syrian army has launched ground offensives against insurgent-held areas of western and northwestern Syria since Russia began air strikes in the country three weeks ago.

Based on reporting by Reuters

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