Opposition criticises Washington's ambiguity on Assad, slams regime-planned elections
A Syrian opposition figure on Sunday criticised "American ambiguity" on the future of President Bashar al-Assad and urged Washington to confirm he will not be "rehabilitated" in a future government.
"We have American ambiguity that is very damaging for us," said Bassma Kodmani, member of the main opposition High Negotiations Committee, which attended last month's peace talks in Geneva.
The committee has rejected Assad's demand for any transitional government to include his regime as Syria struggles to emerge from five years of civil war.
The White House last week indicated Assad should not feature in a transitional unity administration, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, dubbing his participation a "non-starter" for Washington.
But Kodmani said the committee wanted confirmation of that stance two days after high level US-Russian discussions on ways of strengthening a fragile ceasefire.
"We don't know what the United States are discussing with Moscow," Assad's long-time ally, said Kodmani.
"We are awaiting confirmation that the USA are maintaining their position to refuse to rehabilitate Assad," she told French media.
Kodmani stressed "Assad's departure must be negotiated. The end of the regime must be a controlled, not a chaotic, transition operation."
But she warned that if Moscow "continues to think Assad should continue to govern then we shall not have a solution in Syria. He cannot remain in power.
"The opposition's position is clear - negotiation will occur while Assad is still in power, but the transition cannot happen with him."
UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura wants fresh peace talks to start next week in Geneva on ending a conflict that has killed more than 270,000 dead with a transitional government being formed in six months to draft a new constitution ahead of presidential elections in 18 months time.
These statements come as Assad's regime pushes ahead with parliamentary elections despite Syria's nearly five-year-old civil war.
The war is dominating the campaign for the 13 April vote, which will see nearly 12,000 candidates vying for seats in Syria's 250-seat legislature.
As with the 2012 parliamentary election and a 2014 presidential vote, only Syrians living in government-held areas will be able to cast their ballots.
"We stand for security," reads one campaign slogan. "For the sake of the children who were killed, we will continue," vows another.
One candidate has branded himself as "the voice of the martyrs and the injured", while another claims to represent "the martyrs of our heroic army".
|While Assad has hailed the "unprecedented" number of candidates running for MP, Western backers of the anti-regime revolt have lashed out at the elections.|
The upcoming vote is the second legislative election held by the Damascus regime since the outbreak of civil war in 2011.
While Assad has hailed the "unprecedented" number of candidates running for MP, the Syrian opposition and Western backers of the anti-regime revolt have lashed out at the elections.
French President Francois Hollande, for one, has branded them "provocative" and "totally unrealistic".
On 10 March, the domestic opposition which is tolerated in Damascus called for a widespread boycott, accusing the government of using the vote to gain leverage in peace talks.
The High Negotiations Committee, the main exiled opposition body, has branded the vote "illegitimate".
Key Damascus backer Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has shot back saying the planned vote "does not interfere with steps to build the peace process".The United Nations, for its part, has called for presidential and parliamentary elections within the next 18 months as part of the process.