Denmark's foreign minister says the West should start talking to Syrian President Bashar Assad but "it has to be an absolute condition that Assad must not be part of Syria's future."

Martin Lidegaard says that stopping to stop the nearly four-year-old civil war means that "we then must talk with the present regime."

Lidegaard spoke Friday ahead of Monday's meeting in Moscow between the Syrian government and its opponents. That meeting appears to be unraveling as prominent opposition figures shun the prospective negotiations amid deep distrust of Russia.

Assad has refused to discuss a political transition before agreeing with the opposition on combating "terrorism," the term Syrian officials use to describe rebels fighting to topple him.

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Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.