News / Middle East

Syrian Opposition: Solution to War Must Start with Assad Leaving

FILE - Syrian National Coalition spokesman Khalid Saleh
FILE - Syrian National Coalition spokesman Khalid Saleh
VOA News
Syria's opposition coalition has responded to a U.S. and Russian call for peace talks to end the Syrian civil war by saying any political solution must begin with President Bashar al-Assad leaving power.

Speaking to VOA by phone from Istanbul, Syrian National Coalition spokesman Khalid Saleh reiterated the group's longtime demand for a peace process to start with the departure of Assad and the pillars of his government.

He said those "pillars" include the heads of Syrian security systems responsible for killings of Syrians during the two-year conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday they hope to convene an international conference later this month to launch peace talks between Syria's government and rebels fighting to end Assad's autocratic rule.

After meeting in Moscow, the two diplomats said they will try to persuade both sides to negotiate on the basis of a political transition plan backed by major powers in Geneva last June.

That plan calls for the Syrian government and rebels to agree on a transitional government leading to elections but does not specify the fate of Assad.

Kerry said it is "impossible" for him as an "individual" to see Assad governing Syria in the future, but he added that the Syrian president's fate is not for him to decide. The United States has long called on Assad to quit for leading a deadly crackdown on dissent.

Opposition spokesman Saleh said he does not believe Kerry's remarks represent a shift in the U.S. position.

He also appeared to offer the Assad government an opening for entering into talks with the opposition.

"If the Assad regime is serious, I believe it can start by releasing 200,000 prisoners in its jails, it can start by pulling its military out of the cities," Saleh said.

The Syrian government had no immediate response to the Kerry-Lavrov appeal for peace talks. It has released some prisoners in the past but opposition figures have dismissed those moves and other gestures as too little, too late.

Saleh also welcomed what he described as a shift in Russia's position on Syria's future. He noted Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov's remark that Moscow is interested in the fate of the Syrian people, not of "certain individuals" - an apparent reference to Syrian leaders including Assad.

Moscow repeatedly has rejected foreign calls for the ouster of Assad, a longtime Russian ally. But, it also has tried to distance itself from the Syrian president's political future.

Saleh said Lavrov's concern for the Syrian people rather than their leaders "is in the best interests of everybody."

U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Wednesday the U.S.-Russian initiative on Syria is "the first hopeful news concerning that unhappy country in a very long time."

He said the initiative is "only a first step," but added that he has "every reason to expect" that all members of the U.N. Security Council will cooperate to carry the process forward.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid