Syrian conflict has reached a stalemate, deputy prime minister says
Published Friday, September 20, 2013 12:46PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 20, 2013 5:21PM EDT
The conflict in Syria has reached a stalemate and President Bashar al Assad will propose a ceasefire at an upcoming international conference, the country’s deputy prime minister said in an interview with a British newspaper.
Qadri Jamil also said in the interview with The Guardian that the Assad regime “in its previous form has ended.”
Jamil joined Syria’s government last year and is not considered a loyalist to Assad’s Baath Party. However, he insisted in the interview that his comments represent the opinion of the regime.
"Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," Jamil told the Guardian. "This zero balance of forces will not change for a while."
When asked what proposals his government will put forward at the upcoming conference on Syria in Geneva, Jamil said a ceasefire would be on the list of recommendations, as well as a call for the start of “a peaceful political process in a way that the Syrian people can enjoy self-determination without outside intervention and in a democratic way.”
While Jamil’s comments made international headlines, they also spurred his party to come out and suggest that he was misquoted in the article, reported CTV’s Middle East Bureau Chief Martin Seemungal.
“So it’s a little unclear what is actually going on in that situation,” he told CTV News Channel from Jerusalem. “However, having said that, the government has long said that this cannot be solved on the battlefield, that neither side is strong enough to beat the other, and they certainly suggested that in the past, despite the fact that the Assad regime continues to fight to win.”
Seemungal noted that despite the Assad regime’s apparent willingness to meet at the negotiating table, the rebels are unlikely to agree.
“The problem is the rebels have always said, ‘We’re not going to sit down and talk at all as long as any kind of deal would include Bashar al Assad in the future. He has to step down now.’ So even this comment, and we’re still trying to get clarification if it was actually said, has already been dismissed by the rebels.”
Rebel groups have previously indicated they will not attend the Geneva conference.
The two-year-old conflict in Syria has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives and displaced some 2 million people, according to recent estimates. What began as a protest against the Assad regime has grown into a civil war between the government and various opposition groups.
Reports of chemical weapons attacks inside Syria in recent weeks have sparked international outrage, and for a time it seemed as though the international community was ready to stage a military intervention.
Although they were initially blocked from doing their work, United Nations inspectors eventually made it to the scene of one attack last month in a suburb of Damascus, Syria’s capital, and have since confirmed evidence of sarin gas.
The United States has climbed down from its initial threat of intervention and is now urging the UN to adopt a binding resolution to respond to the use of chemical weapons on civilians.
Meanwhile, Assad committed to a Sept. 21 deadline to hand over to the UN an inventory of his chemical weapons, and reports indicate he has already handed over a list.
“The UN diplomats say it’s a very long list and it needs to be translated, but certainly it’s an important step in this process to defuse this situation in Syria,” Seemungal said.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Assad who helped broker the chemical weapons deal, said he could not guarantee that Syria will completely destroy its stock.
“Will we be able to accomplish it all? I cannot be 100 per cent sure about it," Putin said during a discussion forum with western politicians and experts. "But everything we have seen so far in recent days gives us confidence that this will happen … I hope so."
In The Guardian interview, Jamil said Syria is open to change, but that the international community must offer its support rather than threats or pressure.
"Let nobody have any fear that the regime in its present form will continue,” he said. “For all practical purposes the regime in its previous form has ended. In order to realize our progressive reforms we need the west and all those who are involved in Syria to get off our shoulders.”
Jamil also told The Guardian that the ongoing conflict has had a devastating effect on the Syrian economy, which has lost about $100 billion, or about two years’ worth of normal production.