Syria: Assad ready to 'negotiate on all matters'

Syria: Assad ready to 'negotiate on all matters'
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains defiant about the six-year war promising to 'retake' all of Syria, but made his closest admission yet that he could eventually step down.
2 min read
09 January, 2017
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that his regime is prepared to negotiate on "all matters" in planned peace talks in Kazakhstan, Syria's SANA news agency reported Monday.

In the comments made initially in a statement to French media, the president also remained insistent that his forces will regain control of all of Syria - ultimately saying that Damascus is still pursuing a military solution to the crisis.

"We are ready to negotiate about everything," he said.

When asked whether that also meant that his presidency was up for discussion, Assad said, "yes, but my position is linked to the constitution".

"If they want to discuss this point they must discuss the constitution," he added.

He indicated that a referendum would need to be held in order to establish any new constitution.

Having emerged in a stronger position from recent military victories over rebel forces, Assad also continued to question the legitimacy of the opposition.

He also alluded to undue outside influence over the country's rebel groups and opposition bodies.

"Who will be there from the other side? We do not yet know. Will it be a real Syrian opposition?"

Assad dismissed groups that he said were supported by the UK, Saudi Arabia and France, saying that "Syrian issues" must be decided over by Syrian groups.

He also alleged that rebels were violating a ceasefire recently brokered by Turkey and Russia. Syrian opposition activists say pro-Assad forces continue to shell rebel-held areas, including in Daraa and Ghouta.

Peace talks

Regarding the proposed peace talks in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, Assad said that his delegation was ready to set off for discussions "when the time of the conference is set".

The Free Syrian Army, however, said earlier this month that they had put on hold any discussions about participating in the Astana talks due to ceasefire violations by Assad's forces.

Russia said in December that an agreement had been reached with Iran, Turkey and Syria that peace talks would be held in Astana at an unspecified date.

This followed the rebels' most devestating defeat of the war in eastern Aleppo, where Russian and Syrian forces bombarded the city's rebel-held districts and enforced one of the longest sieges in modern warfare.