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Lavrov Calls On Syrian Opposition To Respond To Assad Proposals

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged the Syrian opposition to respond to fresh proposals by President Assad to end the bloodshed inside Syria.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeated Russian calls for opposition fighters and leaders in Syria to seek dialogue with Bashar al-Assad to end the bloodshed there.

Lavrov highlighted fresh proposals made by Assad in a recent speech and advised the opposition in Syria to respond to them.

"We are sure that the way out from this situation should be based on the Geneva communique -- and I will repeat it once again -- without any preconditions, because any preconditions will make it impossible to start a dialogue. It is necessary to make everybody, including the opposition which is still categorically denying any dialogue, to sit down at the negotiating table," Lavrov said January 13 during a visit to Ukraine.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced disappointment over Assad's speech a week ago that was also dismissed by the United States.

Syrian rebels described it as a renewed declaration of war.

Lavrov also repeated Russia's stance that the Syrian opposition's demand that Assad step down could not be a precondition for peace talks to end the nearly two-year conflict that has already killed at least 60,000 people.

Meanwhile inside Syria, opposition activists say government forces bombarded rebel-held areas on the outskirts of Damascus on January 13, killing at least 36 people.

Also, a Syrian warplane was reported to have bombed a rebel position in the main market in Azaz, an opposition-held town some 10 kilometers from the border with Turkey.

Opposition activists said 16 rebels or civilians were killed.

Elsewhere, the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Moaz Alkhatib, met Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Joudeh on January 13.

It was the first visit to Jordan by Alkhatib -- a prominent cleric from Damascus -- to Jordan since he was appointed head of the SNC last month.

Analysts say Jordan has been reluctant to meet with officials from the Islamist-controlled coalition.

Based on Reuters and AP reporting
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