Opposition, West reject Assad ‘peace plan’Agence France-Presse . Damascus
A defiant speech by President Bashar al-Assad calling for peace in Syria on his terms has met rejection by the opposition and internationally, with only his ally Iran on Monday backing his stance.
Assad’s plan was ‘detached from reality,’ a US State Department spokeswoman said, while Britain said Assad’s address was ‘empty’ and France said it was an attempt ‘to justify the repression of the Syrian people’.
The office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Europe’s position remained that Assad should step down to permit a political transition.
And Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi told CNN he would endorse any decision by the Syrian people to put Assad on trial before the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition noted that Assad had ruled out any dialogue with the rebels, making negotiations impossible.
Only Iran, which is supplying money, military advisors and, according to the United States, weapons to Assad’s regime threw its weight behind its ally.
‘The Islamic republic... supports President Bashar al-Assad’s initiative for a comprehensive solution to the country’s crisis,’ which rejects ‘foreign interference,’ the Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said in a statement on his ministry website.
Assad, in his first speech in seven months, on Sunday outlined his vision for a way out of the 21-month conflict that has shattered his country, killed more than 60,000 people according to the UN, and created a well of instability exploited by Islamic jihadists and fuelled by regional rivalries.
Any resolution of the conflict had to be purely Syrian, Assad said — though he called those Syrians ranged against him ‘not a loyal opposition but a gang of killers.’
He stated that most of the anti-regime fighters were foreigners, and said: ‘The one thing that is sure (is) that those who we face today are those who carry the al-Qaeda ideology.’
But while his plan calling for an end to violence, dialogue with opposition elements he deemed acceptable, and a vow to stand fast against those he branded ‘terrorists’ and their foreign backers drew wild applause from his Damascus audience, it offered little realistic prospect of ending what has become a civil war.
‘His initiative is detached from reality’ and was another attempt ‘to cling to power,’ US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
The British foreign secretary, William Hague, said the speech was full of ‘empty promises’ and would ‘fool no one’.
‘Bashar al-Assad’s remarks show once again his denial of reality in which he has shut himself away to justify the repression of the Syrian people,’ French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said on Monday.
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