Syrian opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib has said he is willing to hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad’s representatives in rebel-held areas of northern Syria to try to end a conflict that has killed more than 60,000 people.
The aim of the talks would be to find a way for Assad to leave power with the “minimum of bloodshed and destruction”, al-Khatib said in a statement published on his Facebook page.
“If the regime is concerned about national sovereignty and does not want to leave the Syrian territories, there is an appropriate solution, the liberated lands in northern Syria,” he said.
After meeting Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Araby in cairo on Monday, al-Khatib told Al Jazeera that the regime keeps insisting that holding talks outside the country is a breach of sovereignty. The north is Syrian land, he said, “and we, too, have the right to choose where we want to talk”.
A day earlier, al-Khatib met international Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Brahimi urged the opposition leader to keep seeking dialogue with the Damascus government, the UN said.
Brahimi played a main role in organising meetings between al-Khatib and the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, Assad’s main supporters, in Munich last week.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which controls a large bloc within al-Khatib’s National Coalition, is against the dialogue initiative. But it is unlikely to challenge al-Khatib’s authority directly, with his initiative gaining popularity in Syria, sources within the coalition said.
The Syrian authorities have not responded directly to al-Khatib’s initiative – formulated in broad terms last month. But Information Minister Amran al-Zoubi on Friday repeated the government’s line that the opposition was welcome to come to Damascus to discuss Syria’s future in line with Assad’s proposals for a national dialogue.
Al-Khatib has headed the Syrian National Coalition since it was founded last December in Qatar with Western and Gulf backing.