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29 Sep, 2013 19:55

Syria govt ‘ready to go to Geneva for dialogue, not to hand over power to anyone’ – FM

Syria govt ‘ready to go to Geneva for dialogue, not to hand over power to anyone’ – FM

The Syrian government is ready for peace talks with the opposition, but the legitimacy of President Assad “isn’t up for discussion,” Syrian FM Walid Muallem said. It comes as the Syrian opposition remains undecided on who will represent them at Geneva.

Any political program or work document produced at the Geneva-2 peace conference would have to go through a popular referendum in Syria before it can be applied, Muallem, Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Minister said in an interview with Sky News Arabia on Saturday.

Moreover, the minister reiterated that Syrian President Bashar Assad was legitimately elected to serve until the upcoming elections in mid- 2014, and that his resignation “isn’t up for discussion with anyone.”

Muallem said that the Syrian government is prepared to hold talks with “licensed opposition parties” on forming a national unity government. He went on to disregard the “Doha coalition” – the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces formed in Doha, Qatar in November 2012 from various opposition groups – as the sole representative of the opposition, saying that it “failed in the eyes of Syrians after they demanded the US to wage aggression on Syria.”

Although mid-November has been set as an approximate date for the Geneva-2 conference by the UN, the precise date remains unclear, Muallem noted, saying that the UN and its envoy Lakhdar Brahimi “are having trouble gathering the opposition” in Geneva.

The Syrian crisis can be resolved if all the parties, including the Western powers and their allies, follow the UN Security Council resolution on Syria, and if Syria’s neighbors stop “funding, training  and harboring terrorists,” the minister believes. Earlier, Muallem told RT that once the US, the EU and some of the Gulf countries stop supporting the opposition fighters on the ground, the Syrian conflict will end within a “few weeks.”

Muallem’s words come about a week after the Syrian National Coalition’s president Ahmad Jarba said in a letter to the UN Security Council that the coalition will attend Geneva-2, but only if its agreed purpose is to ensure “the establishment of a transitional government with full executive powers.” Earlier, Jarba openly urged the Security Council to adopt a resolution that would allow the use of force to cripple the Syrian government’s “war machine.”  

While the Syrian National Coalition has been recognized by several Western and Arab states as the “sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” it has had trouble uniting the disparate rebel forces fighting on the ground. Thirteen of the most powerful rebel groups – including a division of the FSA and more radical Islamists – on Wednesday stated that “all groups formed abroad without having returned to the country do not represent us” and called to unite under an “Islamic framework based on Sharia law.”

This comes as the Syrian opposition has been pressured by the international community to come up with a delegation for the Geneva-2 peace conference, with Russia urging its Western and regional sponsors to push the opposition into talks.