Ready to negotiate  presidency for peace  in Syria, says Assad

Damascus : Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he was ready to hold a referendum in the war-ravaged country over his presidency, which the rebels have insisted upon throughout the almost six-year-old conflict, it was reported on Monday.

The Russia-and Iran-backed President said his government was ready to discuss “everything” in the proposed peace talks with rebels, scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan later this month.

In an interview with a French media outlet published by Sana news agency on Monday, Assad, when asked if he would be willing to step down as President, said: “Yes, but my position is related to the Constitution.”

“So, if they want to discuss this point, they have to discuss the Constitution, and it is not owned by the government or the President or by the opposition.”

The Syrian President said any constitutional matter must be put to a referendum, and it was up to the Syrian people to elect the President.

The talks, brokered by Russia and Turkey, hit a roadblock last week after opposition groups said they had frozen the process in light of continued government strikes across the country.

The Syrian President accused the rebels of violating nationwide truce several times. Assad also defended the Army’s push to recapture a rebel-held valley near Damascus where the main water supply to the capital had been turned off.

Assad’s position in the war has been significantly bolstered following the recapture of the northern city of Aleppo in December, which was the last rebel urban stronghold in the country.     —IANS

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