Under Russian coaxing, the government now accepts international mediation – a big shift from a year ago. But mediation will require the opposition and its western and Arab League backers to stop insisting Assad surrenders power before talks begin. "No one dares to confront the street and say we need dialogue," says Jihad Makdissi, the foreign ministry spokesman. "You need a statesman, a Nelson Mandela, who can say, I've suffered. I've been in prison but I'm willing to talk."