Syria crisis: Minister says civil war has reached stalemate
- 20 September 2013
- From the section Middle East
Syria's deputy prime minister says the civil war has reached stalemate, with neither side strong enough to win.
Qadri Jamil told the UK's Guardian newspaper that at proposed peace talks in Geneva, Damascus would call for a ceasefire with the armed opposition.
The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says Mr Jamil seems to be reflecting a drive by Russia to prepare for peace talks.
Meanwhile, the US has called on the UN Security Council to act over Syria's chemical weapons.
Secretary of State John Kerry called on the council to pass a "binding resolution" when it meets next week.
Mr Jamil told the Guardian that the Syrian economy had suffered catastrophic losses in the civil war that began in early 2011.
More than 100,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the UN, and millions have fled the country or been made homeless.
"Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," he said.
"This zero balance of forces will not change for a while."
Mr Jamil insisted that he was speaking for the government.
He said that if the long-delayed Geneva peace talks were revived, the government would propose a ceasefire monitored by troops from neutral or friendly countries.
This, he said, would pave the way for a peaceful political process, free from outside interference.
Nobody should fear, he added, that the regime in its current form would continue.
The BBC's Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says Mr Jamil's comments are bound to be dismissed by the Syrian opposition, which is deeply sceptical about talk of reform and democracy from government sources.
Mr Jamil is a former communist whose party took part in demonstrations against the government at the beginning of the uprising. He is not a hard-core Baath Party loyalist, our correspondent adds.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran was ready to help broker peace in Syria as part of what he called his country's "constructive engagement" policy with other nations.
In an article in the Washington Post newspaper, Mr Rouhani wrote: "We must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain. We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates.
"As part of this, I announce my government's readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition."
Correspondents say the article is the latest signal that Mr Rouhani wants to improve Iran's relationship with the US and other countries that believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
On the ground in Syria, a ceasefire has been agreed between two different rebel groups in the northern town of Azaz, the BBC's Paul Wood reports.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis), an al-Qaeda-linked rebel movement, seized the town on Wednesday from the larger and Western-backed Free Syrian Army.
Isis is reported to have made a number of arrests of activists, journalists and even Sharia court officials in the town.
The fighting between the two groups was the latest and most serious incident in what analysts say is becoming a war within a war.
Analysts say there is more chance that the US and other Western powers may arm the Free Syrian Army if it shows there is clear water between it and the Islamists.
Security Council call
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, is currently in Damascus where he has been meeting top officials and also leaders of the tolerated opposition.
Both Russia and the US say they want to build on their agreement concerning chemical weapons to revive the stalled peace process.
But there are still many disagreements too.
Mr Kerry said a "definitive" UN report had proved that the Syrian government was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs of Ghouta on 21 August.
Damascus - backed by Moscow - insists that rebel forces carried out the attack.
The US threatened military strikes against Syria in response to the attack, but put them on hold after agreeing to a Russian plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.
Syria has agreed to the disarmament plan unveiled by the US and Russia last weekend.
The West wants the deal enshrined in a UN resolution backed by the threat of military force, but Russia - Syria's ally - objects.
Mr Kerry said the UN Security Council must be willing to act when the UN General Assembly holds its annual meeting in New York next week.
"Now the test comes. The Security Council must be prepared to act next week," Mr Kerry said.
Correspondents say the disarmament plan faces its first big test on Saturday with the one-week deadline for Syria to provide a list of its chemical weapons facilities.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in an interview with Fox News, said it could take about a year to destroy Syria's chemical stockpiles and could cost about $1bn (£623m).
The United Nations says more than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011.