Assad casts doubt over Geneva peace talks

Syrian president says “factors are not yet in place” for talks and he has the desire for a third term as president

President Bashar al-Assad (right) speaking during a television interview [EPA]

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has said that  “factors are not yet in place” for peace talks despite efforts by world powers to convene a meeting next month.

In an interview with on Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen television, broadcast on Monday, Assad also said he desired a third term as president and had not ruled out running for re-election in 2014.

His comments came as the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who has been pushing for a peace conference next month in Geneva, said any attempt by Assad to be re-elected would extend the country’s civil war.

“No time has been set, and the factors are not yet in place if we want (a US-Russian peace initiative dubbed Geneva 2) to succeed,” Assad told Al-Mayadeen.

“Which forces are taking part? What relation do these forces have with the Syrian people? Do these forces represent the Syrian people, or do they represent the states that invented them?” he asked.

The United States and Russia have been trying to organise the Geneva 2 conference, first announced last year, on the heels of a deal which Syria accepted to destroy its chemical arsenal by mid-2014.

Assad has systematically refused to recognise as legitimate the National Coalition opposition umbrella group, which insists on his removal, a demand the regime rejects.

‘They don’t dare come to Syria’

“How can these forces represent the Syrian people if they live abroad? They don’t dare to come to Syria… but claim to control 70 percent of Syrian territory,” he said.

“There are many questions about the conference… What is the framework of the conference?”

He has also repeatedly accused the Coalition of working under the orders of regional and Western backers.

“The solution [to Syria’s war] must be a Syrian solution, regardless of whether foreign powers recognise it. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Syrian people recognises it,” said Assad.

Asked whether he would run for re-election, Assad, who succeeded his late father in 2000, said: “My answer depends on two factors. The first is the personal desire, and the second is the will of the people.”

“Regarding the first point, I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t run in the next election.”

Kerry is to meet the Syrian opposition and its Western and Arab backers in Paris on Tuesday. He warned Assad’s re-election would doom the country.

“If he thinks he’s going to solve problems by running for re-election, I can say to him, I think that certainly this war will not end as long as that’s the case that he’s there,” Kerry said.

Source: AFP