Assad says Syria transitional govt should include regime and opposition
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published Wednesday that the transitional government of his war-torn country should include both the regime and the opposition.
Assad told Russia's RIA Novosti state news agency in comments translated into Russian that it would be "logical for there to be independent forces, opposition forces and forces loyal to the government represented there".
UN-mediated talks involving Damascus and the opposition paused last week with the sides still deadlocked over Assad's fate, whom the opposition insists must leave power before a transitional government is agreed.
Western officials fear the Syrian opposition will drop out of the peace talks in Geneva entirely unless Russia's ally Assad agrees to step down.
In the interview, Assad did not touch on his own future, saying only that the makeup of the transitional government should be agreed upon at the negotiations in Switzerland.
"There are many questions that need to be discussed in Geneva, but there are not difficult questions," Assad said. "I don't consider them difficult, they can all be resolved."
The West and Russia say they are pushing for a transitional government to be set up and a draft constitution established by August according to a plan agreed by world powers last year.
Assad said a preliminary draft version of the constitution could be drawn up "within a few weeks", but insisted that the country would only adopt a new constitution "after the Syrian people vote on it".
Assad rejected the prospect of Syria becoming a federal state -- an option the Kurds have pushed for -- saying the country was too "small" for such a political structure.
"From a sociological point of view, there must be components of society that may not be able live with one another for there to be a federation," Assad said. "There is none of this in Syrian history."
"The majority of Kurds want to live in a united Syria, within the framework of centralised power in political terms, and not in a federal structure," he said.
Syria's Kurds earlier this month declared a federal region across the several provinces they control, in a move aimed at boosting autonomy but which risks further complicating the talks.
The federalism declaration was broadly rejected by those negotiating in Geneva, including Damascus and the UN's Syria envoy, who branded it as possibly "dangerous."
© 2016 AFP