Assad: backing rebels must stop for peace to take place

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Foreign support for Syrian rebels must stop for peace to take place in the war-battered country, President Bashar al-Assad told visiting U.N. Arab envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday.

“The success of any political solution is tied to stopping support for terrorist groups and pressuring their patron states,” the Syrian state television quoted Assad as saying.

Ahead of a planned peace conference in Geneva, Assad also told Brahimi that a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis cannot be dictated by foreign powers.

“The Syrian people are the only ones who have the right to decide on Syria's future, and any solution or agreement must have the acceptance of the Syrian people, and reflect their desires,” Assad said.

Assad warned there must not be “any foreign intervention” in seeking a solution to Syria's civil war, in which an estimated 115,000 people have died in 31 months according to AFP.

Brahimi seemed to agree with Assad, saying: “The efforts being made for the Geneva conference to be held are focused on finding the way for the Syrians themselves to meet and to agree on solving the crisis as quickly as possible.”

Wednesday’s gathering is the first direct talks between the two men since December when Brahimi angered the Syrian ruling family by saying that it has been leading the country for too long.

Brahimi’s meeting with Assad comes as part of a regional tour aimed at bringing together the Syrian government and opposition parties on the same table during Geneva II.

Opposition and rebel groups have so far refused to take part in the Geneva II unless Assad agrees to leave power.

The Geneva II peace conference, backed by Russia and the United States, has been constantly postponed due to disputes over which parties and countries, including Iran, should participate.

Brahimi has displayed his will that Saudi Arabia takes part in the Geneva II peace talks aimed at ending the raging conflict, his spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Brahimi “appreciates the role the [Saudi] kingdom can play in giving the peace process the push it needs,” Khawla Matar told AFP.

The Syrian conflict that started in 2011, as part, of the uprising that took place around the Arab World was at first a peaceful protest movement against the Assad family who has been ruling the country for four decades, before deteriorating into a civil war that caused hundreds of death and forced millions to flee.

(With AFP)