Assad firm on leading during Syria's transition
A government minister insisted that Bashar al-Assad will remain president during Syria’s transition. Assad will also lead any efforts agreed upon in Geneva peace talks planned for next month.
"If anyone thinks we are going to Geneva 2 to hand the keys to Damascus over (to the opposition), then he might as well not go," Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said in remarks carried by the official SANA news agency.
"The decision rests with President Assad. He will lead the period of transition, if there is one. He is the leader of Syria... And he will remain the president of Syria."
Due to their strong backing of the rebel fighters, Zohbi insists that Saudi Arabia be excluded from the peace conference.
The opposition rebels who have been fighting Assad's regime throughout the war that has claimed 126,000 lives since March 2011 have called for Assad to step down as part of any transition.
The UN-Arab league envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, will moderate talks between the two parties in Geneva on January 22.
As the two parties clearly have different expectations for even beginning to discuss a plan for the future, each side is doubtful of potential progress.
The umbrella opposition group, the National Coalition, has demanded that Assad resign to make room for a "transitional governing body" with "full executive powers" that excludes Assad’s inner circle.
Today many armed groups, including jihadist brigades affiliated with Al-Qaeda, are fighting both the regime and each other, complicating any efforts to reach an agreement.