Syria says Western powers are forestalling peace talks

BEIRUT Tue Sep 17, 2013 7:36am EDT

Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad wave a Syrian national flag depicting Assad's portrait during a rally in front of the parliament building under the slogan ''No aggression on Syria'', in Damascus September 17, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad wave a Syrian national flag depicting Assad's portrait during a rally in front of the parliament building under the slogan ''No aggression on Syria'', in Damascus September 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria accused Western powers on Tuesday of trying to wreck prospects for a negotiated settlement to the country's 2-1/2-year conflict by imposing preconditions on the peace process and supporting rebel fighters.

The comments, highlighting the precariousness of any international mediation between Syria's two warring parties, followed a meeting of foreign ministers from the United States, France and Britain a day earlier. They warned there would be consequences if President Bashar al-Assad did not hand over Syria's chemical weapons.

A U.S.-Russian deal to remove the weapons averted the immediate prospect of a U.S. military strike against Syria, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted it offered Assad "no lifeline" and that he had "lost all legitimacy".

Syrian state news agency SANA quoted an unnamed foreign ministry official as saying the comments by the Western powers "exposed the truth of their aims in Syria" and their desire to impose their will on the Syrian people.

"Discussion of political and constitutional legitimacy in Syria is the exclusive right of the Syrian people," it said.

The agreement to remove chemical agents by mid-2014 was seen as a diplomatic success for foreign powers that might reinvigorate efforts to set "Geneva 2" peace talks.

Geneva 2 seemed stalled indefinitely after a poison gas strike outside Damascus that killed hundreds of people. The opposition and Western powers blame Assad for the attack.

The opposition has refused to attend Geneva 2 talks if they do not require that a final deal include the removal of Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades.

Kerry's comments appeared aimed at assuaging opposition complaints that the diplomatic efforts on chemical weapons was restoring Assad's legitimacy.

Western powers have given some support to insurgents fighting to overthrow Assad but have hesitated to give them sophisticated weaponry because of rebel divisions and the dominance of hardline Islamist factions.

SANA accused Western powers of trying to prolong the conflict and said their stated commitment to a negotiated solution "contradicts their continuing attempts to preempt the political process and impose preconditions on it and their continuing support for groups practicing violence and terrorism in Syria."

The SANA statement insisted Assad would remain in power "as long as the people desired it," contradicting one of the primary opposition demands that he be removed.

"Whoever is not pleased by this reality should not go to the Geneva conference," the SANA statement said.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which started as a peaceful protest movement in March 2011.

(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Comments (5)
rllove wrote:
The media has done little to explain why the Western powers will not benefit from a peaceful solution in Syria. I don’t know much about the region, but I have read that the Royals of Quatar want to put a pipeline across Syria. So, this Syria business probably has to do with limiting the exports of fossil fuels out of Russia. OPEC and the US do of course regulate the global supply and Russia is becoming an exporter of enough significance to affect prices? But this would then provide motive for the Western powers and OPEC to provide chemical weapons to the ‘rebels’ and so I suppose the media has been told to ignore such things?

Sep 17, 2013 9:12am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Slammy wrote:
What I find interesting, Syria calls these groups terrorists but wants to try, or claim to try, to negotiate a peaceful settlement with them. Yes, they want to negotiate with terrorists. Which, as history has shown, usually never ends well.
So, these groups, or some of them, are either not terrorists in the traditional meaning of the word or the Syrian regime is dumber than I think. Either scenario is possible, although I already hold an incredibly low opinion for the intelligence of the regime.
From having followed this war for 2 1/2 years, I see no way the regime can win. Winning being defined as the return to some semblance of what the country was like before the revolution. Even if, a big if, the regime can run these armed groups out of the country, the lasting resentment will make scattered conflicts, assassinations and cooperation impossible. I think the rebels can eventually bleed the regime to death financially and militarily but then there is the same problem of everyone getting along. I use to think this scenario could be avoided, but Syria looks to become the Somalia of the Mediterranean. All because a few boys were tortured for spray painting.

Sep 17, 2013 1:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
rllove wrote:
Slammy,

Your definition of “winning” is flawed. ‘Losing’ for Assad means death or imprisonment, and that makes winning ‘not death’, or ‘not prison’, and life as it is for him, as he is the most powerful man in his country, is very precious indeed.

Your point about negotiating with terrorists is flawed as well. You seem unaware of the fact that ‘one mans terrorist, is another man’s freedom fighter’. By your logic, George Washington would not have been worthy of negotiating with the much more conventional and sophisticated British Empire.

Plus, the so-called ‘rebels’ consist of something like 20 different groups, and each fighting on different fronts for different reasons. Very probably, some of these groups have a potential ‘founding father’ at large. Other groups are just made up of mercenaries as in all conflicts, and most of these men will leave Syria once there is no ‘work’. Others will grow weary of the toil and brutality of war, some of then will marry and raise families and etc. And some will continue to cause problems, as you suggest as universal for all ‘terrorists’. But this is always in play, regardless of who rules, but that was the case before the conflict began, and will always be so, until the Utopian Age begins, if it ever does.

Sep 17, 2013 3:36pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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