Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday lowered expectations for a meeting to be held this month in Moscow aimed at ending the war in his country.wpid-presidentbasharal-assad1-150x150.jpg

Al-Assad said in remarks released by Syria’s official news agency, SANA, that the meeting would not launch negotiations between his regime and the opposition but would rather lay down the basis for any future peace talks.

“We are going to Russia not to proceed with the dialogue but to meet with different personalities to discuss the foundations that will underlie the dialogue when it starts,” he said in an interview with the Czech newspaper Literarni Noviny, according to SANA.

Russia, a major ally of al-Assad, is trying to bring representatives from his government and the opposition to discuss a political solution to the conflict, which is estimated to have killed more than 2000,000 people since it erupted in 2011.

Most opposition groups have said they will not attend the talks scheduled January 26-29, saying the gathering lacks a clear agenda.

UN-sponsored peace talks last year in Geneva failed to make progress.

A UN team carrying relief supplies Thursday entered an area besieged for months in the central Syrian province of Homs hours after a temporary ceasefire went into effect, activists said.

“The two sides agreed to implement a 10-day truce in the district of al-Wair, and then they will meet again to discuss a longer ceasefire,” said Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict.

Syrian state television, quoting unnamed sources, reported that a truce had started in al-Wair without giving details.

Al-Wair is 7 kilometres east of the centre of Old Homs. For nearly a year, al-Assad’s troops have been blockading and bombarding the district, one of the last rebel strongholds in Homs.


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