Syria’s Assad rejects ‘transitional body’ demanded by rebels
BEIRUT – The Associated Press
This file photo taken on February 11, 2016 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during an exclusive interview with AFP in the capital Damascus. AFP photoSyrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published March 30 that Syria needs a national unity government that would secure the transition to a new constitution, rejecting the “transitional body” demanded by the opposition, which wants him to step down.
In the interview with Russian media, Assad said Syrian refugees will begin returning home when they see hope for improvement, adding that one of the main causes of migration is Western sanctions against Syria.
“First of all, regarding the definition of the ‘transitional period,’ such a definition does not exist,” Assad said in the interview with Sputnik, a state news agency, which published excerpts on its website.
He said the term political transition means the transition from one constitution to another. “Thus, the transition period must be under the current constitution, and we will move on to the new constitution after the Syrian people vote for it,” Assad added.
His comments run counter to demands by the Syrian opposition for a “transitional body with full executive powers.” The two sides held U.N.-mediated talks earlier this month.
As a response to Assad, George Sabra, a negotiator for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) representing the Syrian opposition at Geneva peace talks, said March 30 that Syria needed a transitional ruling body with full executive powers and not a participatory government under Assad.
“The government, whether it’s new or old, as long as it is in the presence of Assad, is not part of the political process,” said Sabra.
“What Assad is talking about has no relation to the political process,” said Sabra.
Asaad al-Zoubi, an HNC member, said the Syrian people and the Geneva negotiating team want “a transitional ruling body will full executive powers and authorities, including presidential authority.”
“Whereas the regime wants a participatory government,” he said.
A roadmap for a transition in Syria outlined in a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in December 2015 calls for a Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations which would establish “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance” within six months and set up a schedule and process for the drafting of a new constitution to be followed by U.N.-supervised elections.
Assad said a national unity government would be formed by various Syrian political forces - “opposition, independent, the current government and others.”
“Neither the Syrian constitution, nor the constitution of any other country in the world includes anything that is called a transitional body of power. It’s illogical and unconstitutional.”
Early March 30, Syria’s state-run news agency said Assad sent a message to the U.N. secretary-general reiterating his readiness to cooperate with all “sincere” efforts to fight terrorism.
Assad also thanked Ban Ki-moon for the U.N. chief’s statements welcoming the Syrian army’s recapture of the town of Palmyra and its world-famous archaeological site from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Ban had said on March 27 that the world body is “encouraged and fortunate” that Syrian troops retook Palmyra.
Assad had previously said that the Syrian army’s successes and its strong support from Russia would help accelerate a political settlement to the country’s civil war.
Assad told RIA that the Syrian government delegation “displayed flexibility” at the talks with the opposition “in order not to miss a single chance” for settlement.
“Russia’s military support, the support provided by Syria’s friends and the military achievements of the Syrian army - all this will lead to the speeding up of political settlement, and not vice versa,” he said.
“We did not change our position before Russia’s support or after it,” he added.