Assad calls for Syria dialogue
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a rare speech denounced the opposition Sunday as "slaves" of the West and called for national dialogue to draft a new charter and pave the way for legislative polls.
- Published: 6/01/2013 at 07:56 PM
- Newspaper section: breakingnews
Outlining a reconciliation plan aimed at resolving Syria's 21-month conflict which according to the UN has claimed more than 60,000 lives, Assad called on foreign powers to end their support for rebels seeking to topple his regime.
''Regional and international countries must stop funding the armed men to allow those displaced to return to their homes,'' Assad said to wild applause from crowds packed into the Dar al-Assad Centre for Culture and Arts in Damascus.
''Right after that our military operations will cease,'' he said, adding without elaborating that a mechanism to monitor such a truce would be established.
The government would then step up contacts to convene a national dialogue conference with regime opponents ''from inside and outside'' the country, who do not take orders from abroad.
''We will dialogue with (those who are) the masters (of their decisions) not the slaves (of foreign powers),'' Assad said.
Any resolution of the conflict must be purely Syrian and ratified by referendum, including the charter to be drafted at the national dialogue conference, he insisted.
After the referendum, parliamentary polls would be held, followed by the creation of a new government, said Assad.
But he stressed for all this to happen ``there must be agreement at the national dialogue conference.''
''Just because we have not found a partner, it does not mean we are not interested in a political solution, but that we did not find a partner,'' he told the audience.
He said the conflict was not one between the government and the opposition but between the ``nation and its enemies.''
''The one thing that is sure that those who we face today are those who carry the Al-Qaeda ideology,'' Assad said, repeating previous assertions that ``foreign terrorists'' are behind the uprising in his country.
''There are those who seek to partition Syria and weaken it,'' he said.
Assad last spoke in public on June 3 when he addressed parliament in Damascus. In November he gave an interview to Russian television in which he dismissed suggestions he would go into exile, saying he would ``live and die'' in Syria.
Since then he has not commented on the conflict which has ravaged his country, with vast swathes of northern Syria now in the hands of rebels, who also control an arc of towns on the eastern outskirts of Damascus and are locked in battle for control of major cities, including Homs and Aleppo.
In his speech on Sunday Assad came out fighting, appealing to all Syrians to join together to defend the nation.
''Everyone must defend it... the attack on the entire nation... every citizen who is aware... and refusing to join solutions is taking the nation backwards,'' he said.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
- Position: News agency