Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dealt a blow to efforts for a peace conference,saying the time is not ripe,as Western and Arab powers prepare to meet with the fractured Syrian opposition groups in Switzerland.
“No time has been set,and the factors are not yet in place if we want (the US-Russian initiative dubbed Geneva 2) to succeed,” Assad told Lebanon-based pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Mayadeen on Monday.
“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?” Assad asked in typically defiant fashion.
In the lengthy interview,Assad also said he was willing to run for re-election in 2014,in remarks that came soon after US Secretary of State John Kerry said that if he were to win,Syria’s civil war would be extended.
“Personally,I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t run in the next election,” Assad declared.
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Kerry said after talks with Arab League officials in Paris such a scenario would never be accepted by the international community.
“He has bombed and gassed people in his country… How can that man claim to rule under any legitimacy in the future?”
Kerry’s comments came before today’s meeting in London,which groups the so-called London 11,the core group of the Friends of Syria that consists of Britain,Egypt,France,Germany,Italy,Jordan,Qatar,Saudi Arabia,Turkey,the United Arab Emirates and the United States,together with opposition leaders.
The meeting hopes to persuade the opposition to have a “united position” for a planned peace conference in Geneva next month,British Foreign Secretary William Hague said ahead of the talks.
The Syrian National Council,a key member of the National Coalition,has already said it opposes the conference and threatened to quit the umbrella opposition group if it goes to any meeting attended by members of Assad’s regime.
Hague told BBC radio the meeting would encourage the opposition to unite and “go to the Geneva peace talks and stop the blood and talk together as Syrians”.
Assad in the interview accused Saudi Arabia of conducting the work of the United States in Syria and also demanded the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria,Lakhdar Brahimi,stick to his mandate and not follow orders from other countries.