Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the government is ready to negotiate on everything, including his position as president.
However, he insisted this would have to be decided by all Syrians, by way of a referendum on the constitution.
“Yeah, but my position is related to the constitution,” he said in an interview with various French media.
“And the constitution is very clear about the mechanism in which you can bring a president or get rid of a president. So if they want to discuss this point, they have to discuss the constitution, and the constitution is not owned by the government or the president or by the opposition; it should be owned by the Syrian people, so you need a referendum for every constitution.”
“The Syrian people should bring a president, not part of the Syrian people.”
Assad’s allies, Russia and Iran, and Turkey, which has been supporting some opposition rebel groups in the devastating civil war, are sponsoring peace talks on Syria expected to be held in the Kazakh capital Astana later in January.
Previous peace discussions have come to a halt over the question of Assad’s future. Opposition groups have consistently insisted he must leave before any reforms can be agreed upon.
The US has not been invited to participate in the Astana talks and the president has dismissed rebel groups backed by the likes of Saudi Arabia, France and the UK.
“Who’s going to be there from the other side? We don’t know, yet. Is it going to be real Syrian opposition – and when I say “real” it means has grassroots in Syria, not Saudi one or French one or British one – it should be Syrian opposition to discuss the Syrian issues. So, the viability or, let’s say, the success of that conference will depend on that point.”
Assad also said the bombing of eastern Aleppo, which the UN says could have amounted to a war crime, was justified.
Tens of thousands of civilians were displaced in an uncompromising military campaign by government troops.
Assad’s forces retook the area in December, 2016, after more than four years under rebel control. He said they were forced to “liberate” the city.
“I have not heard in the history of a good war, every war is bad. But the question is how can you liberate the civilians in those areas from the terrorists? Is it better to leave them under their supervision, under their oppression under their fate defined by those terrorists by beheading, by killing by everything, but not having a state?”