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Syrian government remains defiant on Geneva II - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, meets with Syria's Prime Minister Wael Nader Al-Halqi in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013.  (AP Photo)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, meets with Syria’s Prime Minister Wael Nader Al-Halqi in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. (AP Photo)

Tehran/London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A spokesman for the Syrian government reasserted its rejection of calls from the opposition for President Bashar Al-Assad to step down before next month’s peace conference, as the country’s prime minister concluded an official visit to Iran on Sunday.

In an interview with the Al-Mayadeen TV channel, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Al-Mokdad, said that an agreement at the Geneva II conference, scheduled for January 22 2014, could not be reached without the approval of Syria’s president, Bashar Al-Assad.

A previous international summit on the Syrian conflict, known as “Geneva I,” called for the formation of an interim government with full executive powers. The agreement made no explicit reference to the prospective role of the current Syrian president, saying only that it should be composed of individuals acceptable to both sides.

The Syrian opposition remains adamant that the current Syrian president should have no authoritative role during the transitional period in order before agreeing to his participation in the conference. The Assad government continues to reject their demands.

Mokdad said: “The delegation that will travel to Geneva will represent the instructions, guidance, viewpoints and impressions of President Al-Assad. In addition, solutions will not be endorsed except with the approval President Al-Assad.”

“We will sit around the table and hold discussions without any foreign interference. We should look into all of these issues and for there to be, ultimately, an extended government,” he added.

Mokdad hit out at the rebel groups battling to bring down Assad, saying that said that the Syrian government has “reservations relating to the participation of armed terrorist groups—who kill the Syrian people and shed their blood—in the conference.”

“Syria today is locked in a battle against terrorism and Syrians must be united against terrorism even prior to the arrival of the conference,” added the diplomat.

Mokdad’s comments came as Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader Al-Halqi departed Mahrabad International Airport in Tehran to return to Damascus following meetings with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other senior Iranian officials.

According to Syrian state news agency SANA, Halqi and Rouhani discussed “the removal of obstacles to the flow of goods between both countries. Ways to activate the line of credit which Iran has opened to Syria and ensure oil derivatives, and all other needs to the Syrian citizens were also on the table.”

Mokdad passed on Assad’s “congratulations to the Iranian leadership and people over the historic and strategic achievement made by Iranian diplomacy in settling Iran’s nuclear file.”

“Iran’s great victory would positively reflect on solving the crisis in Syria politically,” continued Halqi.

According to SANA, Rouhani “emphasized that his country always seeks security and stability in the region and the world, noting that the important visit of the Syrian government delegation comes in this context.”

Rouhani also “stressed Iran’s keenness on bolstering the Syrian people’s steadfastness in the face of the unfair war waged against them and securing their needs to overcome the economic blockade.”

The news agency reported that Rouhani said: “There can be no solution to the crisis in Syria except through dialogue among the Syrians,” and “reiterated that only the Syrian people have the right to determine their destiny without foreign interference.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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