Syria says delegates to attend Geneva under Assad orders
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
A soldier loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad poses with the national flag in Hujaira town, south of Damascus. REUTERS PhotoSyria will send a delegation to a January 22 Geneva peace conference under the orders of President Bashar al-Assad, a foreign ministry source said on Wednesday.
"Syria announces the participation of an official delegation under the orders of (Assad) and the demands of the Syrian people, with the top priority eliminating terrorism," the source was quoted as saying by the official SANA news agency.
The Geneva peace conference is aimed at ending the nearly three-year-old civil war, a bloody stalemate estimated to have killed more than 120,000 people and driven millions from their homes.
The ministry source also said the delegation was not going to Geneva to hand over power, and that the condition stipulated by Syria's opposition and the West that Assad must not have a role in the country's future was out of the question.
"The official Syrian delegation will not go to Geneva to hand over power, but to take part (in talks) along with those who are committed to furthering the interests of the Syrian people and who support a political solution for Syria's future," the source said.
"Our people will not allow anyone to steal their right to choose their future and their leaders, and what is key about Geneva is to assert the Syrians' rights, and not of those who are spilling the people's blood." The source criticised "the French, British and other foreign ministries as well as their agents in the Arab world who have insisted that there can be no place for President Assad in the transitional period.
"The ministry reminds them that the age of colonialism is over, and they need to wake up... Otherwise it will be useless for them to attend Geneva II."