Sunday, January 6, 2013

Assad in rare speech proposes national conference.. but not with those 'who betrayed Syria'

In this image taken from video obtained from Syrian State Television, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. Syrian President Bashar Assad on Sunday outlined a new peace initiative that includes a national reconciliation conference and a new government and constitution but demanded regional and Western countries stop funding and arming rebels first. (AP Photo/Syrian State Television via AP video)
 Assad in the Opera house (AP)

 Anybody who so far had preserved the least simmer of hope that in the end the Syrian president Assad and his entourage might bow their heads and try to go for a compromise, can by now wave goodbye to silly ideas like that. Just read Reuters report about Assad's latest speech, today in Damascus:   

A defiant President Bashar al-Assad called on Sunday for national mobilization in a "war to defend the nation", describing rebels fighting him as terrorists and agents of foreign powers with whom it was impossible to negotiate.
Appearing in an opera house in central Damascus packed with cheering supporters, the Syrian leader delivered his first speech to an audience since June last year, and his first public comments since a television interview in November.
He unveiled what he described as a peace initiative to end the 21-month-old uprising. But the proposal, including a reconciliation conference that would exclude "those who have betrayed Syria", was certain to be rejected by enemies who have already said they will not negotiate unless he leaves power.
He spoke confidently for about an hour before a crowd of cheering loyalists, who occasionally interrupted him to shout and applaud, at one point raising their fists and chanting: "With blood and soul we sacrifice for you, O Bashar!"
At the end of the speech, supporters rushed to the stage, mobbing him and shouting: "God, Syria and Bashar is enough!" as a smiling Assad waved and was escorted from the hall.

AFP mentions that Assad accused his opponents of 'carrying the Al-Qaeda-ideology'. 
It also spells out Assad's reconciliation mechanism: 

"Regional and international countries must stop funding the armed men to allow those displaced to return to their homes... right after that our military operations will cease," he said.
After that the government would step up contacts to convene a national dialogue conference with regime opponents "from inside and outside" the country, who do not take orders from abroad.
"We will dialogue with the masters (of their decisions) not the slaves (of foreign powers," Assad said to wild applause from crowds packed into the Dar al-Assad Centre for Culture and Arts in Damascus.
According to the initiative, the conference should draw up a "National Charter" that will be the reference document for the political and economic future of Syria.
"This charter will be put up for a referendum vote," Assad said.

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