Putin: Assad agrees to snap poll, working with opposition Russian President says Syria's Assad willing to hold early election, establish contact with "healthy" opposition and work with them in government

President Vladimir Putin

President Vladimir Putin

MOSCOW – (AA) Syrian President Bashar al -Assad agrees to establish contacts with the “healthy” opposition and include them in government until an early parliamentary election, Russian President VladimirPutin has said.

“We are aware that there is a need for political changes and we are talking to our partners in Syria about it,” Putin told journalists Friday on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Russian city of Vladivostok, near the border with China and North Korea.

“The Syrian president agrees to hold a snap parliamentary election, and establish contacts with the so-called ‘healthy’ opposition and involve them in government,” Putin said, adding that this was an inside issue for Syria.

“We are not imposing anything, but we are ready to facilitate this internal dialogue in Syria,” he said.

The Russian president also stressed that the “fight against terrorism” should go hand in hand with the political process, saying Assad was ready to take steps in this direction.

Moscow has long insisted on finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Russia and China have previously blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for the referral of Syria to the international criminal court over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the ongoing civil war.

The Syria conflict began in early 2011 when the Assad regime responded with violence to popular protests that erupted as part of the Arab Spring uprisings.

More than four years of intense fighting have left the country divided between pro-Assad forces and a number of heavily armed opposition factions, which are often at odds among themselves.

Roughly half of the country’s population has been displaced by the violence, with over four million Syrians now seeking refuge in neighboring countries, especially Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.

More than 250,000 people have died in the conflict, according to U.N. estimates.

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