Russian presidential chief-of-staff Sergei Ivanov has reaffirmed the possibility of a dialogue between members of the Syrian government and representatives of Syria's moderate opposition as part of a planned international conference on Syria in Geneva.
"The war between the government and the opposition stopped [in Syria] a long time ago", and today the Syrian opposition "is made up of at least five independent factions that frequently hate each other," Ivanov told Russia's newspapers Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Komsomolskaya Pravda, RBC-Daily and Gazeta.ru.
"The West is beginning to understand that maybe the opposition should be divided, that it is necessary to stop trying to persuade al-Qaeda and other extremists to speak about Geneva-2, and that weapons deliveries to them should preferably be stopped," he said.
If the West "supplies weapons to the so-called Syrian Popular Army, which consists of Syrians who are fighting against [President Bashar] al-Assad, there will still be no reason to doubt that al-Qaeda is not seizing their weapons" because al-Qaeda is stronger than Syria's internal opposition, Ivanov said.
"But even if we put all of these circumstances aside, first we could split the opposition into two parts and invite both al-Assad's representatives and what we can describe as a reasonable opposition to the Geneva-2 [conference], where dialogue may be launched," Ivanov said.
In accordance with the constitution, Syria is expected to hold a presidential election in 2014, he said.
"Certainly, it would be naive and ridiculous to speak about any free expression of will in Syria, but if we agreed to recognize the foundations of democracy, let's try to organize fair elections, similar to how it was done in Afghanistan. If you remember, during the last elections [in Afghanistan], ballot papers were delivered by donkeys for half a year, and the vote counting process took quite long as well. But we are ready to accept even this. However, first they will have to agree upon the rules of the game," Ivanov said.
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