Assad regime vows no surrender of power

Government and opposition both say they will attend peace talks, but lay out vastly contrasting views on Assad's future.

    Rebels say they will not enter talks if Assad remains in power [Reuters]
    Rebels say they will not enter talks if Assad remains in power [Reuters]

    The Syrian government says Bashar al-Assad's position as president is not up for negotiation at peace talks, calling such demands by the opposition "delusions and dreams".

    The statement, issued by the foreign ministry via the SANA news agency on Wednesday, said a delegation would go to planned Geneva II talks in January, but Assad would not "surrender power".

    "The age of colonialism, with the installation and toppling of governments, is over. They must wake from their dreams," the statement said. "If they insist on these delusions, there is no need for them to attend Geneva II."

    "The official Syrian delegation is not going to Geneva to surrender power."

    The government delegation would convey "the wishes of the Syrian people, foremost among them the elimination of terrorism" - a reference rebels fighting Assad's regime.

    The Syrian statement was the first formal response from Damascus to this week's announcement of the talks.

    The Geneva II talks, being pushed by the UN, aims to create a transitional government to end the civil war. 

    The Syrian National Coalition opposition group will also attend the long-delayed talks in January, the group's president, Ahmad Jarba, said on Wednesday.

    In an interview with Reuters and the Associated Press, he also said regional power Iran should only be allowed to attend if it stopped taking part in the bloodshed in Syria and withdrew its forces and proxies.

    The coalition said previously it was ready to attend if humanitarian aid corridors were set up and political prisoners released.

    It insists that President Bashar al-Assad can play no future role in Syria.

    "We are now ready to go to Geneva," Jarba said on a visit to Cairo, adding that the opposition viewed the Geneva talks as a step to a leadership transition and a "genuine democratic transformation in Syria".

    "There is no way that the individual responsible for the destruction of the country can be responsible for building the country," said Jarba, referring to Assad.

    Ceasefire call

    Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Wednesday that Tehran and Ankara would press for a ceasefire in Syria ahead of peace talks planned for January, the Mehr news agency reported.

    "All our efforts should be carried out to finish the conflict and reach a ceasefire even before Geneva II," Zarif said after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

    "Iran and Turkey have similar standpoints on several issues, including that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis."

    On Tuesday, the rebel Free Syrian Army's commander, General Salim Idriss, said his forces would not agree a ceasefire to smooth the way for talks.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.