BEIRUT/MOSCOW Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Friday that he would not negotiate with armed groups, appearing to scupper peace talks that Russia and the United States hope to bring about subsequent month.
Washington helped broker an agreement reached on Thursday by far more than one hundred members of Syria’s opposition parties and far more than a dozen rebel fighting groups ranging from Islamists to Western-backed Cost-free Syrian Army (FSA) groups – but not Islamic State – to send a joint team to meet the government below U.N. auspices next month.
The initiative is driven at least partly by their concentrate on defeating a common enemy in the kind of Islamic State, which has seized massive parts of Syria and Iraq and is increasingly ordering or inspiring attacks on the West and Russia.
But in an interview with the Spanish news agency EFE, Assad stated he would not hold political talks with any armed groups, and accused Washington and its ally Saudi Arabia of wanting “terrorist groups” to join negotiations.
He stated Syria had contact with armed groups for one purpose only: “to attain a predicament exactly where they give up their armaments and either join the government or go back to their typical life … This is the only way to deal with the militants in Syria.
“There’s no point in meeting in New York or anyplace else without having defining terrorist groups,” he said. “For us, in Syria, everyone who holds a machinegun is a terrorist.”
Foreign ministers of nations opposed to Assad are due to meet in Paris on Monday to prepare for talks with Russia and Middle Eastern nations in New York on Thursday with a specific concentrate on trying to kind the opposition delegation for the peace talks.
Prior to Assad’s remarks have been published, Washington said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The experience of a failed peace conference in Switzerland two years ago had kept expectations for the newest push low.
DEMANDS THAT ASSAD LEAVE
The rebel groups issued a statement at the finish of their two-day conference in Riyadh saying Assad need to leave energy at the start of a transitional period, and calling for an all-inclusive, democratic civic state.
Despite the fact that the demand goes beyond what Western powers are calling for, it is rejected by Assad’s patrons Russia and Iran.
A list of 34 members of a secretariat designated to choose the opposition’s negotiating group contained 11 representatives of rebel fighting groups, nine members of the exiled political opposition, six from Syria’s internal opposition and eight independents.
The potent Islamist insurgent group Ahrar al-Sham was represented, along with a quantity of FSA groups that have received military help from states opposed to Assad, such as Saudi Arabia and the United States.
At one point on Friday, Putin appeared to hold out an olive branch to the West, creating what appeared to be Russia’s first explicit statement of support for rebels opposed to Assad in the fight against Islamic State.
At an annual meeting at the Defense Ministry, he mentioned the Totally free Syrian Army was engaged in “offensive actions against terrorists, alongside regular forces, in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Raqqa”.
“We assistance it from the air, as properly as the Syrian army, we help them with weapons, ammunition and supply material assistance.” he said.
But FSA groups dismissed any suggestion of Russian help.
Russian air strikes have targeted a number of FSA groups in western Syria, notably factions that have received military support from Assad’s foreign enemies, which includes anti-tank missiles. A senior Western diplomat said only about 20 % of Russian strikes had been aimed at Islamic State.
A couple of hours later, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to repeat Putin’s assertion, saying: “Russia supplies weapons to the legitimate authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic.”
Asked whether Putin had been speaking about supplying FSA groups, he added: “Please do not cling to meanings in this case. Such an interpretation is feasible.”
The U.S. State Division mentioned on Friday it was unable to confirm Putin’s claims. Spokesman John Kirby stated, “It is unclear to us … whether or not these claims of assistance to the FSA are correct.”
Meanwhile, Islamic State claimed a triple truck bomb attack that killed dozens of folks in a portion of northeastern Syria where Kurdish YPG forces have been pushing back the Islamist militants in recent weeks.
The three blasts, carried out by at least two suicide bombers, went off outside a hospital, at a market and in a residential region in the town of Tel Tamer on Thursday evening, the YPG’s Redur Xelil stated through an internet messaging service.
He put the toll at at least 50 dead and 80 wounded. The Asayish, a Kurdish internal security force, put the death toll at 26.
The YPG has been the most successful companion on the ground in Syria for the U.S.-led coalition that is pounding Islamic State from the air.
But it operates only in northern Syria, and is distrusted by other rebel groups, which shut it out of the Riyadh conference along with the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, fighting alongside other rebels against Assad in western Syria.
Variations also stay between the groups that did attend, with numerous fighters contemplating Damascus-based political opposition figures to be also close to Assad – the same purpose the YPG was excluded.
But the virtually five-year-old conflict, in which a lot more than 250,000 men and women have died, has also spawned unlikely alliances of convenience.
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said he would go to Saudi Arabia, a sturdy supporter of the anti-Assad rebels, quickly.
“I will check out Saudi Arabia at the end of the month for an official pay a visit to and we will talk about a number of matters and join hands with Saudi Arabia with regard to the region’s troubles,” he mentioned in an interview with Al Jazeera.
Senior U.S. Treasury Department official Adam Szubin stated in London on Thursday that Islamic State had created more than $ 500 million selling oil from territory it controls, with substantial volumes sold to Assad’s government and some finding its way to Turkey.
The United Nations says the war has left 13.five million Syrians in want of support and protection, like 400,000 living below siege and four.5 million in regions that are difficult for humanitarian help to attain.
U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien was to meet senior government officials in Damascus on Saturday to seek techniques to get much more help to those in most want.
(Extra reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut Writing by Kevin Liffey Editing by Janet Lawrence and Louise Ireland)