Syrian president says Moscow initiative aims to pave way for talks

Syrian President Bashar Assad says a Russian initiative to bring together Syria's warring sides later this month does not aim to launch peace talks but rather to discuss the basis of future negotiations.

"We should be realistic," Assad said in an interview with the Czech Literarni Noviny newspaper published Thursday.

The talks between the Syrian government and its opponents are scheduled to start Jan. 26 in Moscow. Prominent opposition groups, however, have said they will not attend and the talks have little chance of success.

Assad said he supports the Russian initiative, adding his government does not want to miss any opportunity to end the four-year-old conflict, which has killed more than 200,000 people.