Russia: Syria has "agreed in principle" to peace talks

In this Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad gestures speaks at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria.
AP Photo/SANA, File

MOSCOW Russia's foreign ministry said Friday the Syrian government had "agreed in principle" to a conference on the country's future proposed by Russia and the United States.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in televised remarks that the Syrian government had agreed to attend the conference in Geneva, which is expected within two weeks.

Lukashevich said, however, that it was impossible to set the date for the conference yet because there was "no clarity about who will speak on behalf of the opposition and what powers they will have."

Opposition groups are opposed to Assad's representatives taking part, while Assad himself has suggested he will not leave office unless he is voted out in Syrian elections.

The Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, was meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, meanwhile, to try and pick a new leader and decide whether to participate in the Geneva conference. No specific date for the summit had been mentioned as of Friday.

More than 70,000 people have been killed and several million displaced since the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011 and escalated into a civil war.