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Syria: Government says Assad will not step down - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on September 19, 2013, shows Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad gesturing during an interview with Fox News in the capital, Damascus. (AFP PHOTO/HO/SANA)

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on September 19, 2013, shows Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad gesturing during an interview with Fox News in the Syrian capital, Damascus. (AFP PHOTO/HO/SANA)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Syrian government said on Wednesday that Western and Arab countries demanding that President Bashar Al-Assad step down should “wake up from their dreams,” Syria’s official news agency reported.

The statement also confirmed the Damascus regime’s intention to attend the Geneva II talks, now scheduled to begin on January 22, adding there would be no handover of power.

“If they [the opposition] insist on these delusions, there is no need for them to attend Geneva II,” the state-run SANA news agency quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.

“Our people will not allow anyone to steal their right to choose their future and their leadership,” the source said. “The official Syrian delegation is not going to Geneva to surrender power.”

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Free Syrian Army (FSA) spokesman Luay Al-Miqdad said that “given the current circumstances, holding Geneva II will only consolidate the killing of the Syrian people.”

He added: “The international community has failed to implement any of the terms of Geneva I or the London summit. It has also failed to break the blockade on any Syrian village or prevent shelling of civilians or the killing children.”

Responding to the Syrian government’s statements on Geneva II, the head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed Al-Jarba, said that Assad was seeking to use Geneva II as a cover to move forward with its “war against the Syrian people.”

Underlying the discrepancy between the stances of the Syrian regime and opposition, FSA chief Salim Idriss said that the fight to topple Assad will continue whether or not Geneva II takes place.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Sami Nader, a professor at Saint Joseph University in Beirut and a Middle East affairs analyst, said that by mid-2014 there will be a “settlement at the regional level . . . based on two key deals: the Syrian chemical deal and the Iranian nuclear deal.”

Nader added: “Geneva II will take place on time, given that the Iranians will not impede the holding of this conference in order not to hamper the atmosphere of optimism and openness following the nuclear deal.”

However, Nader also did not rule out the possibility of Iran changing its stance on Geneva II in the event that the balance of power tips in Tehran’s favor.

Nader ultimately downplayed the importance of the Geneva talks, adding that “the final agreement will be governed by the outcome of the chemical and nuclear deals.”