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Damascus (PTI): A top Syrian official urged the opposition to let go of its dream of easing President Bashar al-Assad out of power in a transitional government, complicating peace talks that resumed on Thursday in Geneva on ending the five-year civil war.
As Syrians voted in parliamentary elections in government-held parts of the country balloting the opposition dismissed as a sham Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told AP that a transitional government amounts to a coup d’etat and “will never be accepted”. A transitional government is the centerpiece of the peace program that the United States (US), Russia and other world powers agreed on at a 2012 Geneva Conference.
The terms have been left vague intentionally and are supposed to be worked out in the peace talks, but the presumption, at least in the opposition’s mind, is that a transitional government means one without Assad. “This will not happen, not now, nor tomorrow nor ever,” Mekdad said, speaking at his office in Damascus ahead of the resumption of the indirect talks in Geneva that the UN envoy says will focus on a political transition.
Assad recently floated the idea of a national unity government, rejecting the opposition’s demand for a transitional ruling body, and Mekdad echoed the rejection. “We believe such an idea has failed, it is outdated, it will never be acceptable. This amounts in fact to a coup d’etat. People organise a certain rebellion and then they get power. This will never happen in Syria,” he said.
He said most of the world except Saudi Arabia and Turkey the two top backers of the rebellion have all but relinquished calls for Assad to step down, having realised after five years of war that the president is fighting “terrorists” in Syria. “We believe that if we have to proceed, then we need to forget or we need others to forget the dreams they had for the last five years and to come with factual, actual solutions to the problem,” he said.
“This includes the possibility of establishing a national unity government or a broad government that includes members of the opposition.” But in Geneva, UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told reporters that his recent visits to Iran, Russia and Syria led him to believe that those countries were “supportive to what we are trying to do in terms of a political transition”.
“There was no doubt on that. From Moscow to Tehran, even to Damascus, (they) agreed with the fact that this is the agenda,” he said. US Secretary of State John Kerry said he spoke to de Mistura about the talks and urged all participants “to adhere to the cessation of hostilities”.