Syria said it was ready to hold talks on the departure of President Bashar al-Assad as part of a negotiated settlement to the civil war raging in the country, but the US reacted with scepticism.
The surprise comments on Tuesday by a Syrian envoy visiting Moscow emerged after Russia told the West not to meddle in Syria following Barack Obama's warning to Damascus over its chemical weapons arsenal.
According to political sources in Damascus, Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil was sent to Moscow to discuss a possible plan for a presidential election in Syria in which all candidates would be allowed to stand, including Assad.
"Any problems can be discussed during negotiations. We are even ready to discuss this issue," Jamil said.
The exiled opposition group the Syrian National Council said it was studying the formation of a transitional government, but did not elaborate on whether it could include regime figures.
And US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "We still believe that the faster Assad goes, the more chance there is to quickly move on to the day after."
The West has long demanded Assad's departure, accusing him of butchering his own people during the 17-month conflict.
Syria's traditional allies Russia and China have blocked UN resolutions on the conflict, rejecting what they see as foreign attempts at regime change.