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Syria's Assad: Any Syria peace accord needs referendum


Syria's Assad being interviewed. Courtesy photo: Tehran Times


by Joseph Earnest May 31, 2013


Newscast Media DAMASCUSPresident Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday Syria would attend Geneva peace talks with the opposition in principle but any deal that was struck would have to be approved by referendum. Asked whether Syria had any preconditions for attendance at the talks, Assad told Lebanon's al-Manar television: “The only condition is that anything to be implemented will be submitted to Syrian public opinion and a Syrian referendum."

"We will attend this conference as the official delegation and legitimate representatives of the Syrian people," he said.

 "In principle, we are in favor of the conference as a notion, but there are no details yet," Assad added.

 "For example, will there be conditions placed before the conference? If so, these conditions may be unacceptable and we would not attend. So the idea of the conference, of a meeting, in principle is a good one. We will have to wait and see."

 Russia and Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem both said in recent days that Assad had agreed "in principle" to participate in the peace conference, but the Syrian opposition demanded to hear the confirmation from Assad himself. 

 However, the opposition, as represented by the so-called Syrian National Coalition, pulled out of the peace conference on Thursday. In his interview, Assad made sure to clarify that his government was not attending to negotiate with the opposition.

 "As for the opposition groups abroad and their flag, we know that we are attending the conference not to negotiate with them, but rather with the states that back them," he said. "It will appear as though we are negotiating with the slaves, but essentially we are negotiating with their masters. This is the truth, we shouldn't deceive ourselves."

The peace conference decisions came as Assad claimed to have received a shipment of S-300 air-defense missiles from Russia, which is planning the conference with the U.S. On Tuesday, Russia said that it would go ahead with the delivery of S-300 missiles to Syria, noting that the deal would help deter foreign intervention in the country. 

The S-300 anti-aircraft system is designed to defend large industrial and administrative centers, army bases, and similar facilities and is capable of destroying ballistic missiles. The most recent modifications of the system can shoot down hostile missiles or aircraft up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) away. 

 Israel has repeatedly asked Russia to scrap the contract to sell Syria the truck-mounted S-300 missile system. However, Russia has insisted that it will deliver the S-300 missile system to Syria. Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Russia to try to dissuade Moscow from delivering the S-300s to Syria. 

 In the interview, Assad also said that he is "very confident" his troops will defeat foreign-backed militants in the country, adding that Syria will respond to any possible future Israeli attacks.

 "There is a world war being waged against Syria and the policy of (anti-Israeli) resistance ... (but) we are very confident of victory," he noted.

 Assad also said that there was "popular pressure" to open a military front against Israel on the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since 1967. 

 "There are several factors, including repeated Israeli aggression," he said, referring to Israeli air strikes on Syria. 

 "We have informed all the parties who have contacted us that we will respond to any Israeli aggression next time," he said. 

 On May 5, Syria said the Israeli regime had carried out an airstrike targeting a research center in a suburb of Damascus, following heavy losses of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups at the hands of the Syrian army. According to Syrian media reports, Israeli rockets struck the Jamraya Research Center. The Jamraya facility was also targeted in an Israeli airstrike in January. 

 The May 5 attack came shortly after Tel Aviv confirmed that its warplanes had hit another target in Syria on May 3. Assad said he would seek reelection if the Syrian people want him to contest the 2014 presidential election.

 "This question will be decided at the given moment. If I feel there is any need for my candidacy, and that will be decided after consulting the people, I will not hesitate to stand," AFP quoted Assad as saying in an interview broadcast by the Lebanese television Al-Manar on Thursday.

 "But if I feel that the Syrian people does not want it... I will not stand," he added. 

 Earlier in the day, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said that Assad will remain president at least until scheduled elections in 2014 and might seek another term in office. 

 "From now until the next elections, President Bashar Assad is president of the Syrian Arab Republic," he said. 

 "Will Assad run in 2014 or not? This depends on the circumstances in 2014 and on the popular will. If the people want him to run, he will run. If the people don’t want that, I don’t think he will. Let us not jump the gun," Muallem added. 

The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence. The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals. 

Damascus says the West and its regional allies, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, are supporting the militants. Add Comments>>


Source: Tehran Times






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