Minister: Syria will be a thriving democracy
Pretoria - Multi-party elections could take place before the end of 2011, Syria's vice foreign minister, Faisal al-Miqdad, said in Pretoria after holding bilateral talks with his South African counterpart Ebrahim Ebrahim.
Al-Miqdad said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was serious about the reforms he announced earlier this month.
Syrian media reported earlier this month that al-Assad issued a decree authorising a multi-party political system.
"Syria has called for a national dialogue. Syria will be a thriving democracy," al-Miqdad said.
The government would hold discussions with all opposition groups, but not with armed groups. He also said there were more "decrees under discussion", but did not elaborate what they were.
Al-Miqdad hoped the decrees allowing elections and the formation of political parties could be implemented soon. "This will be done hopefully before the end of this year."
Al-Miqdad accused the media of fabricating reports of atrocities in the country.
Syria has effectively been a one-party state since 1963 and the constitution stipulates that the Baath Party is "the leader of state and society".
Syria has been subjected to mass protests since the beginning of the year with reports of tanks being used to suppress protests.
Ebrahim said the South African government would be joining Brazil and India delegations on an upcoming "working visit" to Syria to better inform themselves of the situation in Syria.
"We made it clear that the government should continue to work for an inclusive dialogue among the people of Syria. This dialogue should seek to meet the general aspirations of the Syrian people"
He welcomed al-Assad's announcement of a multi-party system and urged Syria to speed up reforms. He also urged free access of the media to Syria.