Syria’s government said Saturday it is willing to take part in “consultations" in Moscow aimed at restarting peace talks next year to end its civil war.
"Syria is ready to participate in preliminary consultations in Moscow in order to meet the aspirations of Syrians to find a way out of crisis," state television said, quoting a source at the Syrian foreign ministry.
Moscow, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has pushed to restart talks that collapsed in Geneva in February.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this month that he wanted Syrian opposition groups to agree among themselves on a common approach before setting up direct talks with the Damascus government.
But Lavrov did not specify which opposition groups should take part.
Russia has long backed Assad, including with arms supplies for Syria, but he has become an even more important ally for Moscow since the 2011 Arab Spring protests toppled several Middle East autocrats — some of whom had close ties with Moscow.
The last round of failed peace talks mediated by United Nations Arab League Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi fell apart in January, stalling over Assad's departure. The opposition wanted the Syrian government to honor a previously-agreed upon 2012 communique calling for a transitional government without Assad. Although the government provisionally accepted the idea of a transitional government, it did not agree to Assad stepping down.
Syria's war started in 2011 with a pro-democracy movement that grew into an armed uprising and has inflamed regional confrontations. Some 200,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the United Nations.
Government warplanes have barraged Syria’s rebel-controlled north in recent months as U.S. planes targeted fighters from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Jabhat Al-Nusra. A U.S.-led coalition began carrying out airstrikes on Syria in September as part of its fight against ISIL in Iraq, after the group took over major oil fields and threatened ethnic minorities along with U.S. interests.
The U.S. strikes were not aimed at removing Assad from power, even though President Barack Obama has been working to topple him for years.
Insurgent groups are now fighting against Assad's regime, and armed groups such as ISIL and Jabhat Al-Nusra. The poorly equipped rebel groups along with some activists have accused the U.S. coalition strikes against groups like ISIL — who are fighting Assad — as bolstering the Syrian regime.
Al Jazeera and wire services