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Assad says he is willing to quit

January 10, 20179:57am

Syria’s Assad up for negotiating “everything”1:39

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says “everything” is up for negotiation at proposed peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. But he also promises that the army will recapture the whole of Syria and questions who will represent the opposition. Lucy Fielder reports.

  • January 10th 2017
  • 8 hours ago
  • /video/video.news.com.au/News/World/

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks with French journalists in Damascus, Syria. Picture: SANA via AP.

Staff writer and APNews Corp Australia Network

SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad said he was prepared “to negotiate everything” at planned talks later this month in Kazakhstan, seeking to cast himself as a peacemaker after his forces’ recapture of Aleppo last month.

However, the upcoming talks, brokered by Ankara and Moscow, are still in doubt as Syrian opposition groups have yet to confirm their participation.

Speaking to French reporters at his Damascus palace on Monday, Assad defended his troops’ deadly bombardment of eastern Aleppo, saying the alternative would have been to leave the city’s civilians to the mercy of “terrorists” — a term the government uses for all rebels.

A Syrian boy stands amid the rubble of a building in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus. Picture: Abd Doumany

A Syrian boy stands amid the rubble of a building in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus. Picture: Abd DoumanySource:AFP

Assad questioned the credibility of Syrian opposition groups backed by the West and Saudi Arabia, which make up the bulk of the armed and political opposition to his rule.

“There’s no limit to negotiations,” Assad said, in remarks carried by Syrian state media.

“But who is going to be there from the other side, we don’t know yet … The viability of the conference depends on that.”

Past Syrian peace talks have run aground on the question of Assad’s future and whether he is to continue as president, with the opposition insisting his departure is a precondition for any reforms.

Asked if he would be willing to step down as president — a demand the rebels have insisted on throughout the conflict — Mr Assad said “yes, but my position is linked to the constitution”, The Independent reports.

Embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad said he was prepared "to negotiate everything" at talks set to begin later this month in Kazakhstan. Picture: SANA via AP.

Embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad said he was prepared “to negotiate everything” at talks set to begin later this month in Kazakhstan. Picture: SANA via AP.Source:AP

“If they want to discuss this point, they need to discuss the constitution. You need a referendum for every (constitutional amendment). This is one of the points that could be discussed in the (Kazakhstan) meeting,” he said.

The talks are scheduled to begin in the Kazakh capital of Astana on January 23.

They follow a lengthy rapprochement between Russia, a key backer of Assad, and Turkey, a main sponsor of the opposition, that culminated in a ceasefire agreement that came into force on December 30, but which has already started to erode.

Russian officials have suggested the US could be invited to the talks at a later date.

The Obama administration has been at odds with Russia over how to resolve Syria’s conflict. Incoming President Donald Trump has indicated he might distance the US from Syria’s rebels, bringing Washington in closer alignment with Moscow.

Syria: Heavy fighting between SAA and militants in Wadi Barada1:06

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) forces continued its attacks on militant controlled sites in Wadi Barada, western Damascus on Monday, as a part of an operation to regain control over the contested area. Along with Hezbollah forces, the SAA troops targeted militant strongholds with a barrage of missiles. Water supply to Damascus has been severely compromised after a reservoir in militant-controlled Wadi Barada was cut off, depriving millions of running water.

  • January 10th 2017
  • 8 hours ago
  • /video/video.news.com.au/News/

Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he would strive to build good relations with Russia, and “perhaps, work together to solve many of the great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!”.

Asked about the comments, Assad said warmer relations between Washington and Moscow “reflects positively on the Syrian conflict.” As for Aleppo, Assad said the government forces were forced “to liberate” the city.

“There is a price, sometimes, but at the end the people are liberated from the terrorists,” he said.

Once Syria’s largest city and industrial hub, Aleppo has been devastated by nearly six years of war. Rebels took control of its eastern districts in 2012, before surrendering it to government authority last month.

The UN said the government’s relentless military campaign, which displaced tens of thousands of civilians, could have violated the laws of war.

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