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.


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

    Comment number 39.

    Those of you brokering Russia as the peacemaker need to examine their motives. They are desperate to keep Assad onside and will do and say anything to prevent his neutrality. At the moment they have Europe in their hands because of gas and their exclusive pipeline, a pipeline running through Syria would drastically cut Russias present dominance. 28. Read it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Remembering why this started, was for freedom for the local people of Syria, so now the "rebels" should now grab the opportunity for talks with the regime to get more freedom and fairness for their people, if they dont engage in talks then they are just as bad as Assad, Al Queada etc etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    There is one question I would like answered before we do anything and that is this.

    Where did the rebels get the weapons in the first place?

    Surely they were not just laying around. Without weapons they would of just been protestors.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    9. You
    (Not Iraq - they've done that already... sorry too early here...)

    Thank you Russia for putting the brakes on the madness and making USA think twice.

    America - keep your paws off Iran or we will be back to square one and yes Kerry is an idiot because he thinks that people are really dumb and cannot see through his agenda....that is to get even more people killed.

    We need to stop all war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Regardless of what occurs in the next couple of years, this is not the last we will hear of Syria in regard to possibilities of Western intervention. The Assad regime could make drastic reformations to the manner of their governance, but as long as a non-friendly leader is in place, the US (and unfortunately us, the UK as their lapdogs) will utilise every option in undermining the region

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    yeah, sounds like both sides are tired and all the innocent people to kill are either dead or have fled the country. Nah, make em carry on til there's a winner. Only then will there be peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Assad is the new "bad guy" and the brainless sheep believe everything our lying government say about him

    They told lies when they fiddled their expenses
    They told lies about WMD
    They told lies about the level of immigration into the UK
    They told lies about the Common Market (EU) being "trade only"
    They told lies about "no plans to raise VAT"

    Why does the UK population still believe them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Does the BBC ever get its news elsewhere aside from the Guardian newspaper?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    What started as a local uprising has been hijacked by Al Qaeda etc. The Syrian people want THEM in power as much as they want Assad. Fortunately, they are more forward-looking than the Afghanis.
    It's just a shame Russia didn't get heavy with Assad earlier and no-one has persuaded him to allow the nationals more of a say in the governing of the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    So Kerry still lies...the UN report specifically DID NOT blame anyone for the attack.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Now there is proof that the rebels used chemical weapons I trust that Messrs Haig, Cameron & Co will be hauled before the International court. They have aided and supplied the rebels with weapons from day1 and half of the rebels are Al Qaeda the very people who we are told are public enemy No.1.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    22. So as opposed to destroying chemical weapon, you think bombing the beep out of Syria helps to save lives and keep peace?
    Years of media propaganda does dumb people down, don't you think?
    I remember there was a new article yesterday on evidence of rebels using chemical weapon. Any comments?

  • Comment number 25.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    With the country in a mess, 6m refugees I don"t think anyone is 'winning" apart from arms manufacturers! Time to bring the parties together, time for peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Sad to Say this John Kerry with sidekick William Hauge are typical cowboys. Here we go all guns blazing? They have now been shown for what they are. A pair of idiots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    14 Are you serious? The Russian stance has not helped the situation one bit and if they had thought of peace or humanity they would have done so earlier. Their main interest is in keeping Assad in power, not peace, not saving lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    12. Absolutely agree with you and none of us want war but If you think that a ceasefire will work then think again. Any ceasefire will leave Assad in power. Once the World takes its eyes elsewhere, retribution and many disappearances will happen. How the heck do you think these sort of regimes stay in power in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Hey John, have you got shares in an arms company by any chance? Executive Role maybe? Even if Assad was guilty the argument has now moved on, sorry pal. Go back to watching your John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns.


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