Assad: Not Ruling Out Running for Re-election
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said in an interview Monday that "factors are not yet in place" for peace talks despite efforts by world powers to convene a meeting next month, AFP reports.
The comments were made in a wide-ranging exchange broadcast on Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen television. In it, Assad also said he was not ruling out the possibility of running for a third term in office.
"No time has been set, and the factors are not yet in place if we want (a U.S.-Russian peace initiative dubbed Geneva 2) to succeed," Assad told Al-Mayadeen.
"Which forces are taking part? What relation do these forces have with the Syrian people? Do these forces represent the Syrian people, or do they represent the states that invented them?" the embattled leader asked.
The United States and Russia have been trying to organize the Geneva 2 conference, first announced last year, on the heels of a deal which Syria accepted to destroy its chemical arsenal by mid-2014.
On Sunday there were conflicting reports on whether a date had finally been set for the long-delayed conference.
Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby said that joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi informed him that the talks will convene on November 23. Brahimi, however, denied that any date has been set.
Even if a conference does take place, it remains to be seen whether the Syrian regime will have anyone to speak to.
Last week, a key group within the opposition Syrian National Coalition said it would not attend proposed peace talks in Geneva and would quit the Coalition if it participated.
Several days earlier, in another crack among the rebel groups fighting Assad, 70 groups of rebels in southern Syria said that the National Coalition had “failed” and announced they no longer recognize the Western-backed group.
Assad has systematically refused to recognize as legitimate the National Coalition, which insists on his ouster, a demand the regime rejects.
"How can these forces represent the Syrian people if they live abroad. They don't dare to come to Syria... But claim to control 70 percent of Syrian territory" through fighting on the ground, he was quoted as having said.
"There are many questions about the conference... What is the framework of the conference?" Assad asked.
He has also repeatedly accused the Coalition of working under the orders of regional and Western backers.
"The solution (to Syria's war) must be a Syrian solution, regardless of whether foreign powers recognize it. It doesn't matter. What matters is that the Syrian people recognizes it," stated Assad.
"The issue is a Syrian issue... Whether the conference is held or not is not what matters most. The most important issue is, should the conference be held, will it succeed or not? That is the question. And up until now, the factors are not yet in place for it to succeed."
Asked whether he would run for re-election, Assad, who succeeded his late father in 2000, said, "My answer depends on two factors. The first is the personal desire, and the second is the will of the people.”
"Regarding the first point, the one related to me personally, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't run in the next election," he told Al-Mayadeen.
The comments came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Paris where he met Arab League representatives, warned that Assad's re-election would doom the country.
"If he thinks he's going to solve problems by running for re-election, I can say to him, I think that certainly this war will not end as long as that's the case that he's there," Kerry said, according to AFP.
In the interview, Assad described Syria's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood as a "terror group", the blanket term used by his regime to refer to opponents and rebels that have risen against him since March 2011.
He also charged that Saudi Arabia, a backer of the Syrian opposition, was carrying out U.S. policy against his regime.