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    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks to French journalists in Damascus, Syria, in this handout picture provided by SANA on January 9, 2017

    Damascus Open to Constitutional Referendum Discussions at Astana Talks - Assad

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    Damascus is open for constitutional referendum talks at intra-Syrian negotiations set to be held in Kazakhstan this month, President Bashar Assad said in remarks published Monday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Assad told French media that the government delegation was ready for talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana, despite lack of clarity regarding the makeup of the opposition delegation.

    "If they want to discuss this point [Assad's presidency], they have to discuss the constitution, and the constitution is not owned by the government or the president or by the opposition; it should be owned by the Syrian people, so you need a referendum for every constitution," Assad said.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu named January 23 as the possible date of the intra-Syrian negotiations, provided that the two-week ceasefire holds on the ground.

    "This is one of the points that could be discussed in that meeting, of course," he added in the statement posted on the Syrian presidency's official online channel.

    In December 2016, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said the United Nations wanted to reconvene the talks on February 8, 2017. Russia has stressed that the Astana and Geneva platforms do not seek to become rivals, but are, rather, complimentary.

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    Syrian crisis, negotiations, Syrian conflict, Bashar al-Assad, Syria, Astana
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