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Syria Talks Under Way, Damascus Insists Assad Will Stay

Syria Talks Under Way, Damascus Insists Assad Will

Damascus – Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met U.S. and Russian officials on Tuesday to discuss convening long-delayed Syrian peace talks this year despite disputes over President Bashar al-Assad’s future and whether his ally Iran can attend. Hours earlier, Damascus reiterated that Assad will stay in power come what may, casting doubt on the political transition that is the main focus of the proposed “Geneva 2” conference.

Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, conferred with U.S. Under Secretary Wendy Sherman, U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov at the United Nations in Geneva. After their closed-door talks, they were to be joined by officials from the other three U.N. Security Council permanent members Britain, France and China, as well as Syria’s neighbors Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and the Arab League.

A U.N. source said that even if a conference date could not be announced immediately, the aim was to “at least see that all the parties and groups are ready for a date”. This is by no means certain, given gaping international divisions over Syria and the disarray among Assad’s opponents. The Syrian leader himself appears in no mood for compromise.

“Syria – the state, the nation and the people – will remain and…Assad will be president of this country all the time they are dreaming that he isn’t,” the Syrian state news agency quoted Information Minister Omran Zoabi as saying on Monday night. International efforts to end the conflict in Syria, which has killed well over 100,000 people, driven millions from their homes and further destabilized the region, have floundered.

“One thing is certain, there is no military solution for the conflict in Syria,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Warsaw on Tuesday, asserting again that Assad must go. “I don’t know how anybody believes the opposition is going to give mutual consent to Assad to continue,” he said. (Reuters)

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