Russia: Armed Syrian rebels could join peace talks

Oct 01, 2013, 6:23 AM EDT
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013.
(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's foreign minister says "reasonable" representatives of the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad could take part in prospective peace talks with the regime.

Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that the West should help encourage those rebels who don't harbor "extremist or terrorist views" to join the talks to settle the 2 ½-year conflict.

The U.N. Security Council, which last week endorsed an international plan for Syria to destroy its chemical weapons, has called for a peace conference to be convened "as soon as possible."

Russia has been Assad's key ally, protecting him from the U.N. sanctions. Moscow has initiated the chemical disarmament plan for Syria to avert a U.S. military strike against Syria over a chemical attack against Syrian civilians, which the West has blamed on Assad's forces.