Russia ‘ready’ to establish contacts with Free Syrian Army
MOSCOW - Russia said Wednesday it was ready to establish contacts with Syria's main Western-backed moderate opposition group, the Free Syrian Army, to find a political solution to the crisis.
Russia's foreign ministry said it wanted to inform its partners with "links to the Free Syrian Army of the Russian side's readiness to establish contacts with the leadership of this structure."
The Free Syrian Army is fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad that is being propped up by Moscow.
Moscow said it wants to include the Free Syrian Army in preparation for "a political settlement of the Syrian crisis through negotiations between the Syrian government and the patriotic opposition."
Russia said the foreign ministry "will continue contacts with the full spectrum of the Syrian opposition."
Earlier in the day Russian President Vladimir Putin said that French leader Francois Hollande had suggested a possible plan to get Assad's forces to combine efforts with the Free Syrian Army to fight the Islamic State group.
A Hollande aide later said the French president had simply said that the Syrian opposition would need to be present "around a future negotiating table".
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow is ready to help Assad's army join forces with the Free Syrian Army to defeat Islamic State jihadists and "other terrorist groups" in coordination with the Russian air force.
Western countries have accused Russia of targeting Western-backed opposition groups with air strikes that Moscow says were aimed at Islamic State militants.