Bashar al-Assad: ‘We can’t negotiate with fragmented rebels’

The Observer reports: Syria’s embattled leader Bashar al-Assad has used a rare interview – carried out amid the sound of artillery fire resounding through his presidential palace in Damascus – to warn the United States and Russia that their efforts to bring about talks will do little to halt the civil war laying waste to his country.

In an exclusive interview for the Argentine newspaper Clarin, shared with the Observer, Assad says he welcomes attempts at dialogue, but believes that western states are looking for ways to fuel the violence, rather than stop it, and are seeking to topple his regime regardless of the toll.

At loggerheads since the outset of the anti-Assad uprising began, Moscow and Washington have been in dispute over the anti-Assad uprising since it began in March 2011, but are now trying to find common ground to quell the bloodshed and destruction as its effects continue to reverberate across the region. If successful, there are hopes talks could take place at the end of this month, and could lead to a multilateral summit attended by key protagonists.

Assad, speaking to Clarin‘s reporter Marcelo Cantelmi from the library of his palace, said that a continuing lack of unity between the myriad rebel groups meant that opposition leaders would be unable to implement any ceasefire measures agreed at a summit, such as surrendering arms. “They are not a single entity,” he said. “They are different groups and bands, not dozens but hundreds. They are a mixture and each group has its local leader. And who can unify thousands of people? We can’t discuss a timetable with a party if we don’t know who they are.” [Continue reading…]

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