MESOP Syria Daily: Assad — Palmyra Victory Will Help Secure My Position / OPPOSITION REJECTS RUSSIAN LINE ON ASSAD

March 30 – by Scott Lucas – EAWORLDVIEW – President Assad has said that last weekend’s victory over the Islamic State in Palmyra, in central Syria, will help secure his position. – Assad told the Russian State outlets RIA Novosti and Sputnik that the advance, enabled by Russian airstrikes and foreign forces, will “lead to the acceleration of the political solution” in talks in Geneva.The second set of Geneva discussions adjourned last Thursday and are scheduled to resume on April 11. The Assad delegation is insisting that the President’s future cannot be negotiated.In a convoluted extract from the interview, Assad said that the regime had been consistent in its approach to the talks, but that it would be bolstered by the end of the Islamic State’s 10-month occupation of the Roman-era city:

We didn’t change our stances, neither before the Russian support, nor after it….We went to Geneva and continue to show flexibility….There are those who accuse us and Russia of [military action to forestall political talks], when trying to present Russia’s stance in countering terrorism as a support to the President or the Syrian government, and thus, as an obstacle in the way of the political process. Perhaps this could have been the case if we had not been flexible from the beginning, if we had really persisted. However, if you go back to the policy of the Syrian state five years ago, we responded to all the initiatives, without exception, coming from all sides, even if they were not true.The full interview will be posted by the President’s office in two parts on Wednesday and Thursday.Last week’s Geneva session ended after 10 days with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura presenting a document of negotiating points to both sides.


The opposition-rebel High Negotiating Commission repeated on Wednesday that Assad’s fate must be resolved at the talks, criticizing a Russian statement claiming that the US now understood that this is not for consideration.HNC spokesman Riad Nassan Agha asked, “What [is there] to discuss if we will not discuss the fate of al-Assad?”

He said the comments by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov were “intended to stop the process of negotiations”.Moscow has given signals in the past month of a step back from unconditional support of Assad, but Russia publicly toughened its line last week after the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry.