Syria: No Talking with Rebels Until they Lay Down Arms

Syria’s Information Minister clarifies his country will not speak with rebels until they lay down their arms.

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Elad Benari,

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi

Syria’s Information Minister clarified on Monday that his country will not speak with rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad until they lay down their arms.

Maintaining a stance the government has held all along, Omran al-Zoubi said the Syrian army will continue battling "terrorists," a term the regime uses to refer to those seeking Assad’s ouster.

"We will sit down for dialogue when the militants lay down arms," CNN quoted al-Zoubi as having said during a news conference in Damascus.

He urged citizens who have fled the nation to come home immediately, saying they have no reason to fear. "There is nothing at all which prevents the return of any Syrian citizen," al-Zoubi said.

He went on to slam the West, accusing Europe of not having an opinion of its own. “European roles are always attached to U.S. roles. ... There are never independent European roles,” said al-Zoubi, who dismissed assertions that Assad has lost his legitimacy as "silly talk."

"They can speak now until the end of the year," he said.

He also reiterated Assad's disapproval of talks about buffer zones, warning that if any nation dares to set up one in Syria, it will fight back. "If anyone whatsoever tries to touch Syria's national sovereignty, we will cut their arm off," he warned.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last week urged the UN Security Council to set up civilian safe havens inside Syria, saying his country was struggling to cope with refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

The UN said that proposals to set up secure safe zones in Syria to help end the 17-month conflict raised “serious questions” and would need to be studied carefully.

Al-Zoubi said Syria remains committed to helping the United Nations and Arab League envoy accomplish his goals.

"The leadership will do its duty to the utmost level to cooperate with Lakhdar Brahimi," he said.

Brahimi, meanwhile, said on Monday that he is deeply pessimistic at his chances of restoring calm to the war-torn country.

“I know how difficult it is - how nearly impossible. I can’t say impossible - nearly impossible,” Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat said in an interview with the BBC. “And we are not doing much. That in itself is a terrible weight.”

Brahimi replaced Kofi Annan as the United Nations and Arab League joint special representative on Syria at the end of August.