Syria: Peace talks not for transferring power

Foreign minister says government will take part in planned Geneva talks to form a "national unity government".

    Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has said that his country will attend the planned peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva but ruled out power handover.

    "We will head to Geneva not to hand over power to the other side ... We will go to Geneva in order to set up a real partnership and a broad national unity government," Muallem told a news conference in Damascus on Monday.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s backer Russia and Western countries who support the opposition have agreed to push the process to encourage the Syrian regime and the opposition to sit down at the negotiation table for talks in Geneva.

    Negotiations have not been carried out yet as a result of different positions of the two sides on the nature of the talks. 

    Damascus declared in May that they would attend the planned talks.

    Muallem also said if the proposed talks in Geneva went ahead, there should be a ceasefire and authorities in Damascus were ready to discuss mechanisms for monitoring it.

    'Stop arming rebels'

    He called on Syria's neighbours to stop arming rebels battling to overthrow Assad and said a decision by Western and Arab countries on Saturday to arm those rebels would prolong the crisis and deepen the bloodshed.

    Muallem also said that rebel fighters had little prospect of matching the power of the army despite Western and Arab pledges to send them weapons.

    "If they expect or fantasize that they can create a balance of power, I think they will need to wait years for that to happen," he said.

    At a meeting in Qatar on Saturday, ministers from 11 nations in the "Friends of Syria" group agreed "to provide urgently all the necessary material and equipment to the opposition on the ground". 

    Their final statement also condemned "the intervention of Hezbollah militias and fighters from Iran and Iraq", demanding that they withdraw immediately from Syria.

    The Lebanese group has been fighting alongside Syrian regime forces and played a key role in driving rebel forces out of the southwestern town of Qusayr.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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