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Syria doubts value of talks, air strikes useless without Damascus

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said air strikes combating terrorism are useless unless conducted with the Syrian army

Published: Updated:

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem on Friday questioned the value of political negotiations and said air strikes against militants in his country are useless if they are not coordinated with his government.

“Terrorism cannot be fought only from the air, and all of the previous operations to combat it have only served its spread and outbreak,” Moualem told the United Nations General Assembly.

“Air strikes are useless unless they are conducted in cooperation with the Syrian army, the only force in Syria that is combating terrorism,” he told the 193-nation assembly.

So far, U.N. efforts at mediating peace talks between the government and rebels striving to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been unsuccessful. The 4-1/2-year civil war escalated this week when Russia started bombing raids in Syria.

Russia bombed Syria for a third day on Friday, mainly hitting areas held by rival insurgent groups rather than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters it said it was targeting. The raids drew an increasingly angry response from the West.

Moualem suggested that it would be impossible to end the crisis in his country solely through political negotiations.

“No one should think that, after all these sacrifices and steadfastness for more than four years, they could obtain through politics what they could not win in the field, or that they will achieve at the negotiating table what they failed to achieve on the ground,” he said.

However, he announced that Assad’s government was ready to participate in a series of working groups set up by U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura aimed at hammering out the framework of an agreement on a future political transition for Syria.

“Syria agrees to participate in the four brainstorming committees of experts proposed by the special envoy Staffan de Mistura,” Moualem said, adding that the results of the working groups would be non-binding.

Moualem said that reforms related to democratic elections and the country’s constitution would have to wait while the government pursues its fight against what he characterized as terrorism.

“Syria cannot implement any democratic political measures related to elections, a constitution or the like, while terrorism is striking at home and threatens innocent civilians in the country,” he said.