Syria opposition should disarm, engage in dialog: Assad aide
The political and media adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has called on opposition groups to disarm in order for a proposed National Dialogue Congress involving warring sides to be fruitful.
In an interview with Russia’s Sputnik news agency on Thursday, Bouthaina Shaaban expressed Damascus’ readiness to hold talks with those who believe in a political solution to the almost-seven-year-long conflict in Syria.
“Syria, since the onset of the crisis, has adopted a constructive pragmatic approach believing in engagement, political dialog and shared fate for all constituents of the Syrian people,” Shaaban said.
However, the opposition’s willingness or capability “to engage in a real political process has not yet been made clear,” she added.
On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian and Turkish counterparts Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. They agreed to hold the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in the Russian city aimed at bringing together the opposite factions in Syria for peace talks.
The all-Syrian congress would involve drawing up a framework for Syria’s future structure, adopting a new constitution and holding elections under the UN supervision, Putin said.
Elsewhere in her interview, Shaaban said, “The success of the proposed congress will depend on the various opposition groups realizing that it is high time to stop the violence, lay down their arms and engage in a national dialogue that leads to a comprehensive settlement of all issues pertaining to the current crisis.”
She also emphasized that Damascus had always trusted Russia and Iran, which have both provided “invaluable assistance” to Syria in its counter-terrorism battle.
“We believe that they (Russia and Iran) will save no effort to put an end to the crisis in Syria. They have been cooperating with the Syrian army to eradicate terrorism, and preserve Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she pointed out.
Syrian congress to be held soon: Kremlin
Separately on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Syrian congress would be convened “in the near future,” without elaborating on further details.
He also assured that Turkey’s opposition to the participation of Kurdish militants in Syria’s political process would not hinder the holding of the congress.
“We know that there are certain reservations on the part of our Turkish partners,” he said. “But this does not mean that work will not be conducted. Intense expert work to agree and check the lists [of congress participants] lies ahead.”
Russia says may reduce forces in Syria
In a relevant development on Thursday, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov announced that Moscow may “substantially” reduce its military presence in Syria.
He told reporters in Sochi that the drawdown could start before the end of the year but declined to specify the scale of the drawdown.
“There is very little left to do before the completion of military objectives. Of course, a decision will be made by the supreme commander-in-chief and the deployment will be reduced,” Gerasimov said.
Russia will maintain two military bases and a ceasefire-monitoring center in Syria as well as and “a number of necessary structures to keep the situation where it is now,” he said.