Syria crisis: Minister says civil war has reached stalemate

 

The US and Russia still disagree on issues surrounding the Syria conflict

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.

'Neutral monitors'

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.

Syria's chemical weapons

  • CIA believes Syria's arsenal can be "delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets"
  • Syria believed to possess mustard gas, sarin, and tried to develop VX gas
  • Syria has agreed to join Chemical Weapons Convention; it signed Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 1972 but never ratified

Sources: CSIS, RUSI

"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.

Behind the scenes in a chemical testing lab

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.

Fighting continues

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.

Map

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.

John Kerry says that the UN inspectors report "confirms that the Assad regime carried out a chemical attack"

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.

 

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 19.

    Yes, good. Peace Day tomorrow, too. Peace is good. They just have to get the more extreme rebel factions to cooperate.

  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 18.

    Military intervention should now be kicked firmly out of touch - perhaps if the government start seriously motioning towards peace attention may finally turn to the make-up of the rebels and whether supporting their route to change is actually a good thing. Islamist Jihadists and Al-Qaeda sympathisers are hardly the materials of good governance, regardless of Assad's dictatorial leadership.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 17.

    It shows how much on a knife edge things were - a military intervention from the USA would have tipped things in favour of the rebels. But I wish neither the Assad Government or the rebels on the ordinary people of Syria who deserve something better - a Government that serves the people rather than ruling them.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 16.

    Just 2 years and 100,000 lives too late. In truth, both sides needed their heads banging together by the UN - but the UN couldn't bang a toy drum, and that's the truth. And if the good people of Syria are the real losers, the peace loving people of the world come a close second in being forced to now confront the fact the UN is no longer an effective arbiter of peace or international law.

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 15.

    The US should be excluded from the UN, they have no right to be there, fullstop. The american regime is the main arm dealer in the world, it sponsors terrorism, it refuses to follow the international law. They are the richest country in the world, yet they are 1.2 billion in arrears for the UN membership, while even the poorest countries pay their fees regularly.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 14.

    #5drcarol

    I wouldn't send the UN (i.e. the US!!!!) in... just send the Russians in... they've proved to be the best force for peace in this process...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 13.

    It seems everyone is trying to cloud the issues surrounding the war and trying to influence global opinion with probable lies from all sides.

  • rate this
    +31

    Comment number 12.

    In how many disguises will the US and UK govts try to convince people for a war. Dont they get it.. "WE DO NOT WANT ANOTHER WAR"

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 11.

    I predict that yet again we will see just how disjointed the Opposition are when those supporting the Opposition fail again to get them to agree to attend Geneva II.
    Still talk of arming the FSA as they distance themselves from the more radical elements. The reality on the ground is that the arms will fall to the stronger radicals.
    Lets hear Kerry & Hague talk more on Geneva please

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 10.

    Roaming bands of Al Qaeda-type militants seem to be the bane of peoples' lives in Iraq, Afghanistan and now, it would appear, Syria. Best wishes to Russia and the Western powers in bringing about peace, good luck to Iran and the rest of the Arab League in sorting out the aftermath.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 9.

    Ceasefire - isn't that what the world is holding its collective breath to hear?

    So maybe this conflict can be resolved without anymore great loss of life.
    So there is no need for America to keep pushing for war and hopefully they will run out of excuses to attack Iraq (look out for the "nukes" that equals WMD)

    Humanity need to awaken and realise that any war is wrong and NOW is the time to stop.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 8.

    Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for the innocents

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 7.

    No, it isn't a stalemate, Assad has won, despite attempts by Western regime-change fanatics, including the BBC.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 6.

    Simple - both sides are tired. Syria is an extremely hot country and hence fatigue is a major issue here

    This is our chance! Both sides are struggling so we end this war once and for all. UK and USA, hero's to the Syrian people!!!!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 5.

    Hopefully, a good time to get the UN to try and broker peace talks.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    @1 that must be the opposition parties then

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 3.

    The blokes Dad took power through violence, Assad and the rest of the World needs to understand that he has no legitimacy and the ongoing violence will continue while there is always opposition. Assad is correct in saying there is a stalemate but if resources had been poured in to the opposition initially then Assad would have been finished.

  • rate this
    +37

    Comment number 2.

    Kerry makes me cringe every time I see footage of him. Him and Hague are quite a pair.....of idiots.

  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 1.

    Looks like labour leaders have some stale mates.

 

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