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Assad ready for direct talks with opposition – says Russian official

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has confirmed his readiness to hold talks with representatives of the opposition, including armed opposition groups, Russia's Sputnik News reported on Wednesday, quoting the Russian lawmaker Dmitry Sablin.

"The Syrian president assured that he was ready to maintain contacts with all opposition representatives, including armed opposition", MP Sablin said, following talks with the Syrian President in Damascus.

Earlier in the day, Assad held a meeting with a group of Russian lawmakers in Damascus.

According to the Russian State Duma lawmakers who participated in the meeting, Assad has expressed his readiness to engage in dialogue with the Kurds to discuss their vision of the country's political order.

But Sablin pointed out that the Kurdish issue was rather complicated, adding that the US side also had influence on settling the problem, though it should be discussed solely with the Syrian authorities.

The member of the Russian State Duma Committee for Defence noted that Assad supports the format of Syrian talks in Astana and considers them to be effective.

"Today, it was voiced for the first time that the Syrian president supports the Astana talks and calls them effective and favorable", the lawmaker told reporters after Damascus meeting.

Sablin, the coordinator of the State Duma group for contacts with the Syrian parliament explained that the Syrian president considers the Syrian talks in Astana to be more productive than the Geneva format.

During Wednesday talks, the Syrian leader thanked Russia for its assistance and support in building modern democratic institutions, including talks with the political opposition.

Since 2011, Syria has been engulfed in a civil war, with government forces fighting against numerous opposition and terrorist groups, including the Al-Nusra Front and Daesh, which is banned in a range of countries, including Russia.

In December, the Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Syrian government and armed opposition groups had reached an agreement on a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and regarding their readiness to start peace talks.

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