- `Dictator' Assad can't be part of transitional body, HNC says
- Syria peace talks resumed this week, aim for deal by August
The main Syrian opposition group said it’s offering to share posts on an equal basis with government officials in a new transitional governing body, though it ruled out a role for President Bashar al-Assad and his key associates.
“We support its composition being half from the regime side and half from the revolution side,” Salem al-Muslet, chief spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee, said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday. “The problem is with the dictator Assad and a few people close to him, responsible for crimes against our people.”
Peace talks resumed in Geneva on Wednesday as the United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura urged progress in “crucially urgent” discussions about a political transition in the war-ravaged country. The U.S. and Russia, who are driving the peace efforts, have set an August deadline for a deal.
Truce violations by Assad’s forces are threatening a six-week-old cease-fire and the Geneva talks, the U.S. warned this week, as Russia urged Western powers to pressure the country’s opposition to strike a compromise.
The U.S. is “very alarmed” by Syrian statements that they are preparing a joint offensive with Russia on rebel-held Aleppo, the most populous city, Samantha Power, its ambassador to the UN, said on Tuesday. It’s clear that if the Syrian government doesn’t stick to the truce, “the political process will have little chance of success,” she said.
While Russia and the U.S. have brokered a partial cease-fire, which doesn’t apply to Islamic State or the al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front, disagreement over Assad’s future has stymied a broader settlement. The U.S. is pushing for the eventual departure of the Syrian leader, while Russia is continuing to publicly back him.
The conflict, which has killed 250,000 people and forced millions from their homes, has sparked Europe’s biggest migrant crisis since World War II and allowed Islamic State territory from which to plot the deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels.
The UN-sponsored peace talks are due to lead to an interim power-sharing administration and culminate in early elections in 2017 under a new constitution.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the opposition, which is demanding that Assad quit, has to let go of its “dream” of a transitional government. Assad has offered to form a government of national unity that Western nations say would only provide his opponents a token role.