Assad regime’s lead negotiator Ja’afari: “We do not want a Saudi partner or a Qatari, Turkish, or French partner”
Only a day after the adjournment of political talks, the Assad regime has tried to sideline Syria’s main opposition-rebel bloc, rejecting its position to negotiate.
Bashar al-Ja’afari, the regime’s chief negotiator and UN Ambassador, said on Saturday after nine days of discussions in Geneva, “There is nothing final at all except for the agreement on an agenda. This is the only final thing that we achieved in this round.”
He then dismissed the opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee, portraying it as the outlet of foreign countries. Damascus sought a Syrian opposition, “not a Saudi partner nor a Qatari, Turkish, or French partner”, he said: “What is asked is to have a partner.”
Russia and the Assad regime have been trying to elevate two smaller groups of Russian-preferred politicians, the Cairo and Moscow Groups, as the legitimate “opposition”. Both groups were in Geneva, but had a limited role in the indirect talks.
Ja’afari continued the promotion of the groups, led by former Cabinet minister Qadri Jamil and former regime spokesman Jihad Makdisi. He said a “first condition” was to have a “Syrian national opposition” that did not seek help from Israel nor Turkey, and that “does not work according to Qatari, Saudi, Jordanian, Israeli intelligence agendas”.
Ja’afari did not commit the regime to another round of talks sought by UN envoy Staffan de Mistura later this month.
Geneva’s indirect discussions, the second set between the regime and opposition-rebel bloc since late January, focused on De Mistura’s attempt to agree an agenda. Ja’afari hailed the regime’s success in getting the combatting of “terrorists” — its label for all opposition groups — among the points. The High Negotiating Committees emphasized “political transition” — rejected by President Assad, as it could involve his departure from power — as another.
But Ja’afari belittled the inclusion of transition on the agenda, saying: “We didn’t deal with [the issue of elections] at all because it is linked to the constitution, and the constitution is linked to the upcoming all-inclusive national government.”
De Mistura told reporters on Friday night, “The train is ready, is in the station, is warming up its engine, everything is ready and it just needs an accelerator. And the accelerator is in the hands of those who were attending this round.”
TOP PHOTO: The Assad regime’s lead negotiator, Bashar al Ja’afari, at talks in Geneva, February 25, 2017 Pierre Albouy/Reuters
Turkey Finds Pilot of Downed Regime Jet
Turkish rescue teams have found the pilot of an Assad regime warplane that crashed in southeastern Turkey on Saturday.
The pilot ejected before the MiG-21 jet fighter hit the ground. He was found, exhausted, after a 9-hour search and taken to hospital.
Pics of Syrian pilot whose aircraft crashed yesterday, he is currently in custody of Turk forces and in hospital pic.twitter.com/qRQe2qS0lI
— Hassan Ridha (@sayed_ridha) March 5, 2017
Pro-rebel activists said the jet was downed by machine gun fire by the Ahrar al-Sham faction, but the regime said the warplane suffered a technical problem.