Syrian opposition ready for talks, wants Assad out

A girl waves an opposition flag during an anti-government protest inside a 2nd century Roman amphitheater in the historic Syrian southern town of Bosra al-Sham, in Deraa, Syria March 4, 2016. (Reutes)

Syria’s opposition delegation is ready to engage in serious talks to end the five-year-old war but believes there can be no role for President Bashar al-Assad in a transitional government, a spokesman told reporters after arriving in Geneva on Sunday.

“We are looking forward to the start of negotiations tomorrow to discuss the transitional governing body that would carry executive powers, including those of the presidency, which would not have a role, in that phase or any phase, for any criminal who has perpetrated crimes against the Syrian people, including Assad,” said Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the rebel High Negotiations Committee.

“We hope to reach a solution very soon. We want to see an end to the bloodshed.”

Meanwhile, Syria’s UN ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, head of the government delegation at the Geneva peace talks, rejected opposition demands on Sunday to move quickly into substantive talks about a political transition when negotiations start on Monday.

“There’s nothing called a transitional period,” Jaafari said. “These are wordings that we have to be careful about. This discussion will come at the appropriate time,” he said, adding the talks needed to work on preparatory issues first.

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Syrian rebels on Sunday also denied a Russian Defence Ministry report that an anti-aircraft missile had been used to shoot down a Syrian warplane in Hama province on Saturday.

Officials in three rebel groups contacted by Reuters reiterated previous statements that it had been shot down with anti-aircraft guns.

Fares al-Bayoush, head of a Free Syrian Army rebel group operating in the Hama area, said the Russian statement might be aimed at “accusing some states of supplying the opposition with anti-aircraft missiles.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Sunday a cessation of hostilities in Syria had been violated 29 times in the past 24 hours.

The ministry said in a statement the violations took place in the provinces of Latakia (18 times), Damascus (5), Aleppo (3), Idlib (2) and Hama (1 time).

It added that a portable air-defence system was used to bring down a Syrian MiG-21 warplane over Hama province on Saturday.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46