Assad surprised opposition’s reluctance to take part in elections
"If we had wanted to surrender, we would have surrendered from the very start. We stand at the guard of our motherland. This issue lies beyond the sphere of discussion. Only the Syrian people can decide who should take part in the elections," he said at a Sunday meeting with Russian MPs in Damascus.
That was his answer to members of the delegations who asked him about this attitude to the opinion of Western countries and some opposition leaders claiming that he must leave the political arena and whether he is ready to take part in the presidential election this year.
Expanding on his reply al-Assad invited the opposition to compete with him and take part in the upcoming presidential election.
"They claim that they have liberated 70% of the territory of Syria. So why shouldn't they take part in the elections and hope for the support of [the population in] the 70%" he said.
He added that not a single opposition leader has shown willingness to take part in direct political struggle.
He reminded the deputies that during a conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that over 50% of Syrians support al-Assad.
"If a little is added to the percentage named by the American secretary of state and this will mean full support for the incumbent president by the people," he said.The course of the talks were related to Interfax on Sunday by Alexander Yushchenko, a Communist State Duma deputy and member of the delegation of both houses of the Federal Assembly.
"We consider what we heard as al-Assad's confident position in the upcoming election. Moreover, our two-day visit to Syria during which we succeeded in meeting people gives us reasons to believe that the incumbent president will be supported by the Syrian nation," the deputy said.
The upcoming Geneva-2 international conference on Syria will last more than one day and will include several rounds of direct negotiations between the Syrian government's and opposition representatives, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, the Voice of Russia correspondent reports.
"If you meant that Geneva-2 is only January 22, this is not so," Lavrov said in reply to a journalist's question at a press conference following talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday.
"Nobody knows how much time this will take, and the time parameters of the first round are being coordinated now, but it's clear that there'll be more than one such round, and therefore Geneva-2 will not finish but will only start on January 22," Lavrov said.
The conference will be opened on January 22 in the presence of the foreign ministers from a significant number of different countries, he said.
"These will be debates, in which the Syrian parties will certainly speak. They will be unveiled by the [UN] secretary general. All those who are not indifferent to the fate of the Syrian people and who are taking part in the conference will air their approaches," he said
The list of representatives of the Syrian opposition to take part in the Geneva-2 international conference should not be narrowed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, the Voice of Russia correspondent Ksenya Melnikova reports.
"Geneva-2's success may be secured due to the presence of goodwill of all those who presume that the audience should be representative. This concerns the Syrian parties, primarily the opposition, because we are really concerned about attempts to narrow this spectrum of the opposition forces to be represented in Geneva-2. But representation is also important when it comes to the list of the foreign players," Lavrov said at a press conference following a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
Iran does not accept any preconditions to its participation in the Geneva-2 conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, the Voice of Russia correspondent Ksenya Melnikova reports.
"Iran will not accept any conditions that are not set for other conference participants," he told a press conference in Moscow on Thursday.
"Iran will not take part in the conference if any preconditions are set," the Iranian foreign minister said.
The US currently does not want Iran to participate in the Geneva-2 conference if Iran does not publicly confirm that it agrees with the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012 and say that it fully shares the goals of the international conference on Syria.
In the meantime, Zarif said, commenting on that, that Iran initially spoke in favor of a political solution to the Syrian problem. "Iran said that from day one," he said.
In addition, Zarif said Iran hailed the agreements reached at the first conference on the Syrian settlement in Geneva.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is sure that Iran will be part of the efforts to settle the crisis in Syria,the Voice of Russia correspondent reports.
"We presume that, in any case, Iran should be and will inevitably be part of the comprehensive efforts to settle the problem in Syria," Lavrov said at a press conference following negotiations with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Moscow on Thursday.
Lavrov reaffirmed Moscow's position on the need for inviting Iran to the Geneva-2 international conference on Syria, as Tehran is interested in settling the crisis in Syria peacefully and can influence the ongoing processes in this country.
Lavrov said Syria was among the issues he had discussed with Zarif.
Russia, Iran, and Syria do not have a tripartite project to settle the crisis in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, the Voice of Russia correspondent Ksenya Melnikova reports.
"We are holding negotiations with [Iranian Foreign Minister] Javad Zarif and will have negotiations with [Syrian Foreign Minister] Walid al-Mualem tomorrow, and this does not mean that some tripartite project exists," Lavrov said following negotiations with Zarif in Moscow on Thursday.
"We have nothing to hide, and we don't have any hidden agenda," Lavrov said.
Russia's, Iran's, and Syria's position on the crisis in Syria is not unique, Lavrov said.
"We would like Syria to be a sovereign state, so that its territorial integrity and equal rights of all ethnic, religious and other groups living in Syria be guaranteed, so that Syria lives in peace and security with its neighbors.
Certainly, we, as well as the Syrian people and Iran, are interested in uprooting the hotbeds of terrorism on the Syrian territory," he said.
"This is our common position, and it is shared by the entire international community. These are the goals we are striving for in promoting the settlement of the crisis in Syria. It is only for the Syrian parties themselves to decide on specific ways to move toward these goals," he said.
Russia calls for refraining from actions that go beyond the framework of the agreements on the settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue, the Voice of Russia correspondent Ksenya Melnikova reports.
"The realization of the Geneva agreement should begin in accordance with the plan in the nearest future, on January 20, and that creates the necessary conditions for the development of appropriate agreements which should lead to a final and comprehensive settlement of this issue. We believe it is important to continue constructive interaction between the participants in this process to maintain and strengthen the spirit of cooperation formed in Geneva," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference after meeting with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif.
The minister called for "strict observance of the norms of international law and avoidance of statements and actions that go beyond these frameworks and may negatively reflect on the negotiation process.
Iran and the Sextet can reach final agreements on the Iranian nuclear program despite the persisting elements of mistrust between the parties, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, the Voice of Russia correspondent Ksenya Melnikova reports.
"We believe that that final agreements can still be achieved despite the low level of trust between the parties," the Iranian minister told a press conference following negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"Bearing in mind that our nuclear program is peaceful, the settlement of the situation with it is absolutely feasible," Zarif said.
The Iranian minister said Iran "is ready to take practical steps in accordance with the existing agreement [between the Sextet and Iran]."
The Iranian minister reiterated that "all parties should respect this agreement on the nuclear program and should not try to interpret it in any other way."
Zarif also said that it is very important to Iran that the Iranian nuclear program issue should be resolved with Russia's assistance and that progress should be achieved.
"In this regard, we intend to work closely with Russia," he said.
Voice of Russia, AFP, Interfax