Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in a rare speech today called for a national dialogue to end the 21-month conflict, but stressed he would not talk to those who have taken up arms against his regime.
Describing the Western-backed opposition as "slaves" of foreign powers and admitting that Syria was in the throes of a "real war", the president urged opponents at home to join his regime in ending the bloody conflict.
He spelled out a transition plan, insisting however, that any decision must be purely Syrian and ratified by referendum, including a "National Charter" that would be agreed on in a national dialogue conference.
Assad said his government would soon give details of his plan, which calls on foreign countries to stop funding the armed opposition, followed by an end to military operations by the regular army and a mechanism to monitor both.
"Regional and international countries must stop funding the armed men to allow those displaced to return to their homes... right after that our military operations will cease," he said.
After that the government would step up contacts to convene a national dialogue conference with regime opponents "from inside and outside" the country, who do not take orders from abroad.
"We will dialogue with the masters (of their decisions) not the slaves (of foreign powers," Assad said to wild applause from crowds packed into the Dar al-Assad Centre for Culture and Arts in Damascus.
According to the initiative, the conference should draw up a "National Charter" that will be the reference document for the political and economic future of Syria.
"This charter will be put up for a referendum vote," Assad said.
After that new parliamentary polls would be held, followed by the creation of a new government, said Assad.
But he stressed for all this to happen "there must be agreement at the national dialogue conference."