Bashar Assad: Ceasefire will be priority in Astana

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said today that the priority at upcoming peace talks in the Kazakhstani capital Astana would be to hammer out a viable ceasefire.

“The Astana talks will be a chance for all Syrian parties to discuss everything,” Al-Assad told Japan’s TBS television channel.”My understanding is that the priority will be to achieve a ceasefire,” he added.Asked what he would do if the talks produced calls for a transitional government in Syria, he said the Syrian constitution, drafted by the Assad regime, included no such concept.

Instead, he asserted, a national unity government – including representatives of different groups – might be discussed by meeting participants. If such a unity government were established, he added, parliamentary elections might then be held.

Asked whether he would resign for the sake of peace in Syria, Al-Assad said he would not discuss such an outcome – neither with the Syrian opposition nor with other countries.

The UN-led Geneva process, which aims to end Syria’s civil war, calls for the establishment of an interim government – including both regime and opposition representatives – until a new government can be elected in public polls.

Talks between the Assad regime and opposition negotiators are slated to begin on 23 January in Astana, sponsored by Russia, Turkey and including Iran. Following last month’s ceasefire deal, brokered by Ankara and Moscow, the Astana meeting comes as part of ongoing efforts by both countries to find a political solution to the six-year-old conflict.

Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.


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