Assad: Western Backing of Rebels Must Stop
Foreign support for Syrian rebels must stop for peace to take place in the war-battered country, President Bashar Al-Assad told visiting UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday, according to Al Arabiya.
“The success of any political solution is tied to stopping support for terrorist groups and pressuring their patron states,” Syrian state television quoted Assad as saying.
“Terrorists” is the term used by the Assad regime to describe the rebels trying to oust him.
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.
Last week 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 Brahimi informed him that the talks will convene on November 23. Brahimi, however, denied that any date has been set.
The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition is to meet on November 9 to decide whether to take part in the peace talks but has stated emphatically it will only attend if there are guarantees Assad will step down.
In recent weeks, dozens of major insurgent groups across Syria said the Western-backed umbrella group had "failed."
The Syrian National Council, a key group within the SNC, had said it would not attend proposed peace talks in Geneva and would quit the Coalition if it participated.
This group was later followed by nearly 70 rebels groups which declared that the SNC had failed and announced they no longer recognize the Western-backed group.
This week, 19 Islamist groups fighting to topple Assad declared that attending peace talks or negotiating with the regime would be an act of betrayal.
Assad has refused to step down and has even declared that he is not ruling out running for another term.