Syria’s government recognizes that the civil war in its country is at a stalemate and is prepared to begin talks for a ceasefire, its deputy prime minister said.
Qadri Jamil told Britain’s The Guardian newspaper that three years into the conflict, “Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side.”
Asked what the government would propose at planned peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Jamil said: “An end to external intervention, a ceasefire and the launching of a peaceful political process in a way that the Syrian people can enjoy self-determination without outside intervention and in a democratic way.”
In an interview with Fox News that was taped on Tuesday, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad similarly accused outside intervention of stirring violence in Syria and conditioned an end to the war on its suspension. “Any diplomatic move should start with stopping the flow of the terrorists,” he said, referring to foreign Islamic radicals who have flocked to the country to wage a religious war, “the logistical support of those terrorists, the armament support and the money support. Then, you have a full plan, the Syrians could sit [at] the table, discuss the future of Syria, the political system, the constitution and everything.”
Neighboring Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia, support the largely Sunni uprising against Assad’s minority Alawite regime with money and weapons. But Assad’s ally Iran is also believed to supply arms while the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has sent fighters to do battle on his behalf.
Russia — which has resisted international efforts to dislodge Assad and last week seemed to have staved off American military action with a plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal — and the United States are committed to convening peace talks in Geneva but disagree which groups should take part. The Americans and their allies recognize the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people but it refuses to enter talks while Assad remains in power.
The Syrian leader himself claimed that the coalition lacks domestic support. “Whatever we agree upon in Geneva will be proposed to the Syrian people,” he said, “and if you don’t have grassroots, you cannot convince the Syrian people to move with you. This is the American problem with their puppets, to be very clear and very frank.”
In his interview with The Guardian, Jamil seemed to rule out the possibility of Assad resigning. “Let nobody have any fear that the regime in its present form will continue,” he said.
Jamil, who is a member of a small secular party that was drawn into the government last year to break Assad’s ruling Ba’athist party’s monopoly on power, also revealed that Syria’s economy had lost about $100 billion during the war, the equivalent of two years of normal production.