Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Royal decree on low-cut tops

Read more

DEBATE

Ukraine, The Escalation: No Stopping Putin? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Ukraine, The Escalation: No Stopping Putin?

Read more

FOCUS

Bangladesh: Textile workers' lives still at risk?

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

José Bové, Candidate for the EU Commission presidency, Group of the Greens

Read more

WEB NEWS

NYPD's online campaign backfires

Read more

ENCORE!

Celebrating the Bard's birthday in Britain

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yuki Tatsumi, Senior Associate of the East Asia Program, Stimson Center

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

USA: Executions halted over drugs secrecy

Read more

  • Russia orders military drills as Ukraine moves on separatists

    Read more

  • Israel halts Middle East peace talks over Hamas deal

    Read more

  • Platini: PSG in danger over Financial Fair Play rules

    Read more

  • Ségolène Royal denies banning cleavage at French ministry

    Read more

  • Afghan guard kills US doctors in Kabul hospital attack

    Read more

  • Palestinian unity deal stirs anger in Israel

    Read more

  • Video: Mayor in east Ukraine ready ‘to turn Slaviansk into battlefield’

    Read more

  • US would defend Japan in islands dispute, Obama says

    Read more

  • New far-right mayor moves to quash Paris region mosque

    Read more

  • US soldiers arrive in Poland as Ukraine crisis continues

    Read more

  • Fatah, Hamas agree to form Palestinian unity government

    Read more

  • Millions of Syrians desperately need aid, says UN

    Read more

  • Muslims in CAR pray for an escape route

    Read more

  • Madrid beat Bayern 1-0 in first leg of Champions League semis

    Read more

  • Britain's ex-PM Blair warns against spread of radical Islam

    Read more

  • Turkish PM offers condolences to descendants of Armenians killed in 1915

    Read more

  • Gay marriage, one year on: ‘French civilisation did not crumble’

    Read more

  • Colombian president reinstates firebrand Bogota mayor

    Read more

  • NYPD public relations campaign on Twitter goes awry

    Read more

  • In pictures: Violent protests erupt in Rio

    Read more

Middle east

Syrian VP: ‘Neither Assad nor rebels can win the war’

© AFP

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-12-18

Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa (pictured right) said in a newspaper interview on Monday that neither Bashar al-Assad’s forces nor rebels seeking to overthrow him can win the war and that the two sides should seek a negotiated settlement.

Syria’s vice president has acknowledged that the army cannot defeat the rebel forces trying to topple the regime and called for a “historic settlement” to save the country from ruin.

The rare, candid comments by Farouq al-Sharaa, a Sunni Muslim in a power structure dominated by Assad's Alawite minority, suggested the embattled regime may be contemplating an exit strategy as rebel forces move closer to the capital Damascus. He spoke in an interview published on December 17 by Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.

“I don’t see that what the security forces and army units are doing will lead to a definitive victory,” Sharaa was quoted as saying in the interview conducted in Damascus.

“All these opposition forces can only conclude the battle to topple the regime if their goal is to push the country into chaos and a cycle of violence that has no end,” he added.

“With every passing day the political and military solutions are becoming more distant. We should be in a position defending the existence of Syria. We are not in a battle for an individual or a regime.”

Sharaa pushed for a negotiated political settlement that includes the formation of a national unity government with wide jurisdiction.

Tehran's peace plan

His comments coincided with a step-by-step peace plan for Syria outlined by Iranian officials on Sunday. It would be capped by Syrian elections that presumably could usher in a new leader in Damascus.

Tehran is Assad’s closest and perhaps only remaining regional ally and the initiative suggests its support of the Syrian president could be cooling.

The initiative – while almost certain to be rejected by Syrian rebel factions – marks one of the clearest signals yet that Iran’s leadership is looking to hedge its bets and remain a player in Syrian affairs if Assad is toppled.

It was unclear whether Sharaa’s comments were timed to coordinate with the Iranian initiative.

“Despite his rhetoric, Bashar al-Assad may now be contemplating an exit strategy – one which would allow him to seek refuge abroad with his neck intact,” said Anthony Skinner, an analyst at British risk analysis company Maplecroft in an interview with AP news agency.

In Washington, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the statement by Sharaa “speaks to the pressure that the Syrian regime is under”.

“Regrettably, however, it hasn’t changed the regime’s behaviour, including the brutality it’s inflicting on its own people,” she added.

Controversial figure

Sharaa, 73, a long-time loyalist to the Assad family, has been a controversial but important figure since the start of the 21-month-long rebellion.

Early on in the uprising, Assad delegated responsibility for holding dialogue with the opposition to Sharaa, who is both a skilled diplomat and a Sunni Muslim, as are most opposition supporters.

He appeared in public in late August for the first time in weeks, ending repeated rumours that he had defected.

Sharaa offered an unusually bleak public assessment of the civil war on Monday and even criticised how the government has handled the crisis.

In a veiled criticism of the crackdown, he said there was a difference between the state’s duty to provide security to its citizens, and “pursuing a security solution to the crisis”.

He said even Assad could not be certain where events in Syria were leading, but that anyone who met him would hear that “this is a long struggle...and he does not hide his desire to settle matters militarily to reach a final solution”.

In October, the Turkish leadership appeared to be making a diplomatic push to promote Sharaa as a possible figure to head a transitional administration to end the conflict.

“No one knows the system better than Farouq al-Sharaa,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at the time, adding that Sharaa has not been involved in the violence and massacres.

The Syrian opposition is deeply fragmented, and various factions would likely disagree on whether they would accept him to lead a transitional government. Sharaa, in the interview, said he was not seeking such a role.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-12-18

  • SYRIA

    UN to make ‘greater contacts’ with Syrian opposition

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    Syrian jets fire on Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    Syrians march in support of Jabhat al-Nusra militants

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)