The Syrian government announced on Wednesday it would participate in the January 22 Geneva peace talks designed to end the country’s civil war, reports Al Arabiya.
At the same time, stressed a source in the Syrian foreign ministry, President Bashar Al-Assad will not “hand over power.”
“Syria announces the participation of an official delegation under the orders of (Assad) and the demands of the Syrian people, with the top priority eliminating terrorism,” the source told the official SANA news agency.
The Geneva peace conference is aimed at ending the Syrian conflict that is estimated to have killed more than 120,000 people and driven millions from their homes.
However, the source said, the Syrian delegates will not hand over power. The Syrian opposition has stipulated that Assad must not have a role in the country’s future or in any transitional government.
“The official Syrian delegation will not go to Geneva to hand over power, but to take part (in talks) along with those who are committed to furthering the interests of the Syrian people and who support a political solution for Syria’s future,” the source said, according to Al Arabiya.
“Our people will not allow anyone to steal their right to choose their future and their leaders, and what is key about Geneva is to assert the Syrians’ rights, and not of those who are spilling the people’s blood.”
The source also criticized “the French, British and other foreign ministries as well as their agents in the Arab world who have insisted that there can be no place for President Assad in the transitional period.”
“The ministry reminds them that the age of colonialism is over, and they need to wake up... Otherwise it will be useless for them to attend Geneva II,” Al Arabiya quoted the source as having said.
Wednesday’s announcement is the first formal response from Damascus to this week’s announcement of a January 22 peace conference in Geneva, organized by the United Nations, Russia and the United States.
Earlier this month the Western-backed opposition coalition Syrian National Committee (SNC) agreed to attending the Geneva talks, but stipulated that Assad could not have any future role in Syria's transitional period.
At the same time, the head of the Free Syrian Army has rejected the notion of a ceasefire during upcoming peace talks in Geneva.
FSA General Salim Idriss said his rebel faction would not take part in the "Geneva 2" conference, and declared that they would continue their efforts to overthrow the Assad regime by force.