News / Middle East

    Assad: New Government Should Include Opposition and Regime

    FILE - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad give an interview in Damascus, 25 Sept. 2015. Speaking with Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti news agency Wednesday, he said the international talks in Geneva should result in a government that includes both opposition representatives and officials loyal to his regime.
    FILE - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad give an interview in Damascus, 25 Sept. 2015. Speaking with Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti news agency Wednesday, he said the international talks in Geneva should result in a government that includes both opposition representatives and officials loyal to his regime.
    VOA News

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose government has been bolstered by a series of recent military gains, is striking an optimistic tone about the prospects of peace talks aimed at ending his country's five-year-long civil war.

    Speaking with Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti news agency Wednesday, the embattled Syrian president said the international talks in Geneva should result in a government that includes both opposition representatives and officials loyal to his regime.

    It would be "logical that independent forces, opposition forces, and forces loyal to the state would be represented" in a a new government, Assad said. "This is the aim of Geneva — intra-Syrian dialogue — during which we agree the format of the government," he said.

    The interview, which is being published in segments, has not provided details on which opposition groups to which Assad was referring. Assad also did not mention his own future, which has been the subject of intense disagreement.

    Difficult issues remain

    Assad acknowledged there were several "technical" issues yet to be agreed upon, including the role each faction would play in the new government. "However, these are not difficult issues... they can all be resolved," he insisted.

    The U.N. has been conducting Syrian peace talks in Geneva in hopes of ending the Syrian civil war that has left 300,000 or more people dead, created millions of refugees, and obliterated the country's economy.

    FILE - Asaad Al-Zoubi (R), head of the Syrian opposition delegation, and Salim al-Muslat (2nd R), spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), attend peace talks with U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura (2nd L) at the United Nations in Geneva.
    FILE - Asaad Al-Zoubi (R), head of the Syrian opposition delegation, and Salim al-Muslat (2nd R), spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), attend peace talks with U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura (2nd L) at the United Nations in Geneva.

    The talks are now paused. But diplomats hope a transitional government and draft constitution can be agreed upon by August. Assad on Wednesday said a preliminary constitution could be drawn up "within a few weeks."

    Over the last several weeks, violence has been sharply reduced during an internationally brokered "cessation of hostilities." Russia, which has backed Assad's government, also recently pulled most of its troops out of Syria.

    Recapture of Palmyra

    Syrian government forces have taken advantage of the lull in fighting to make important military advances against groups not covered in the cessation.

    This photo released on Sunday March 27, 2016, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a general view of Palmyra citadel, central Syria.
    This photo released on Sunday March 27, 2016, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a general view of Palmyra citadel, central Syria.

    Damascus' most significant advance was last week's recapture of the ancient and strategic city of Palmyra from Islamic State forces, a victory that came with the help of Russian airstrikes. Syrian officials have said they will now use Palmyra as a base to continue their offensive against Islamic extremists in other areas.

    Assad on Wednesday said even when the country stabilizes, Syria will continue to rely on Russian military assistance, not only to "fight against terrorism" but also to ensure geopolitical stability.

    FILE - Russian warplanes fly over the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia, Syria, Jan. 28, 2016.
    FILE - Russian warplanes fly over the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia, Syria, Jan. 28, 2016.

    "[Russian] military bases are necessary for us, for you, for international balance in the world. That’s the truth, whether we agree with it or not, but right now it’s a necessity," he added.

    The war has cost the country more than $200 billion, Assad told RIA. "Economic issues can be settled immediately, when the situation stabilizes in Syria, but rehabilitating the infrastructure will take a long time," he said.

      WATCH: Palmyra Restoration Begins in Syria 

    Palmyra Restoration Begins in Syriai
    X
    March 28, 2016 8:28 PM
    Syrian government forces backed by Russian air support recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic militants Sunday. The UNESCO World Heritage Site had been held by IS since last May, but as VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, it is in better shape than had been expected and can be rebuilt.

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    Comments
         
    by: A citizening
    March 30, 2016 1:10 PM
    Looking in retrospective at what happened in Egypt and Libya with their failed democracy experiments, especially Lybia that has been going through very tumultuous times, with no head or tail visible, without any inkling of stability, all of which has made it propitious for the ferocious IS to try to establish itself there, and take advantage of the lack of control, let us hope that the people in the West do not try to take Assad out.

    Let the things run their way, no one can rush things out without risking to create additional chaos. Turkey, Libano and Jordan need to release the steam created by the enormous Syrian diaspora in those countries, which has strained their own people, and send those people back to their country, that is, to Syria. I recognize that Assad has taken the first step in order to regain the order in Syria. Taking him out will only create more chaos in the region.

    Egypt did not fail as Libya did thanks to its strong and well managed army, which knew how to control the revolts there. But it sure was a close call. A Syria sans Assad will be tantamount to a Libya without Gaddafi.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 30, 2016 11:52 AM
    The more I listen to what Assad says, the more I'm convinced, that he alone is the only person in the whole world that can lead and will lead Syria through the most difficult time in it's history, no matter what any foreign country leaders say? .. Assad is a great leader, reminiscent of those great leaders of yesteryears that led their Arab armies to victory in many battles against overwhelming odds, and this Syrian war victory with Russian, Iran and Hezbollah allies, ranks right up there with their victories over the foreign crusaders? .. Give credit where credit is due?

    Assad is willing to share power with the opposition fighters who opposed him (but not the terrorists) in a new Syrian government, [but], Assad won't let any foreign governments (or their terrorist/rebels) dictate any terms and conditions they couldn't win on the battlefield for his removal? .. Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies say, it's up to the Syrian people to decide in UN monitored free elections if Assad will stay or go? .. and not the foreign governments that waged a proxy war on Syria? .. They may even write songs and ballads about the many hero defenders of Syria? .. who knows?
    In Response

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    March 30, 2016 7:33 PM
    Assad is hardly a 'great leader', a great dictator if you want to be accurate about it. It was his actions that started the whole shooting match that has been the Syrian Civil War to begin with. And the idea of sharing power with opposition groups, that is laughable. All he has to do is label any opposition group as a terrorist organization and prohibit them from being a part of the coalition government. When the ink dries, Assad will still be firmly holding the reins of power while any 'opposition' group will be given minor authority that can easily be squashed by Assad's thumb. He will still be an unbending dictator to the Syrian people, and he will always be counting on Russia to keep him in power. Assad's 'optimism' over a coalition government is a pie-crust promise...easily made, easily broken.

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