Syrian opposition rejects Assad's call for unity government
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday reiterated his call for a national unity government, amid rejection by the opposition and the White House saying his inclusion would make any such proposal a "non-starter".
In an interview published Wednesday, Assad told Russia's RIA Novosti state news agency it would be "logical for there to be independent forces, opposition forces and forces loyal to the government represented" in the new authorities.
But he pushed back against opposition demands that it should be put in place without his participation, insisting that the transitional body they are calling for is "illogical and unconstitutional".
"Neither in the Syrian constitution nor in the constitution of any other country in the world is there anything that could be called a transitional body of power," Assad said.
"It is the national unity government that will prepare a new constitution," Assad said.
Talks led by the UN's Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura paused last week with the warring sides deadlocked over the fate of Assad, whom the opposition insists must leave power before a transitional government is agreed.
Syria's main opposition High Negotiations Committee flatly rejected the demand from Assad for any transitional government to include his regime.
"International resolutions speak of... the formation of a transitional body with full powers, including presidential powers," HNC senior member Asaad al-Zoabi said, adding "Assad should not remain for even one hour after the formation" of this body.
The form of the executive body that would lead Syria until its elections the UN says should be held in 18 months is the main bone of contention between the two sides.
UN Security Council Resolution 2254 vaguely suggests the establishment of a body to head the political transition.
For the regime, this amounts to a government reshuffle in which the opposition is included, but for the opposition it would be a tranitional body with presidential powers in which Assad has no role.
Assad has been buoyed after his forces recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State (IS) militants over the weekend, in an advanced backed by Russian air strikes and special forces on the ground.
A ceasefire between Damascus and non-jihadist opposition forces has broadly held since February 27, prompting a glimmer of hope that a political solution might be on the horizon in the conflict that has claimed over 270,000 lives.
Agencies contributed to this report