Members of the armed opposition will have a chance to take advantage of the amnesty offered by the government, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with French media, published by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).

“From what we’ve been implementing during the last three years, because you want genuinely to have peace in Syria, the government offered amnesty for every militant who gives up his armaments, and it worked, and they still have the same option if they want to go back to their normality and to go back to their normal life,” Assad said adding that “this is the maximum that one can offer, amnesty.”

Astana talks and elections

The president also confirmed his readiness to send an official delegation to the capital of Kazakhstan “when they set the time of that conference.”

Syrian government is ready to discuss at talks with the opposition in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana any issues concerning the settlement of the conflict in the country.

The Syrian leader noted the issue on power in the country should be decided by the people at elections and the opposition represented at the talks should have support inside the republic rather than express the will of other countries.

“Of course, we are ready, and we announced that our delegation to that conference is ready to go when they define <…> when they set the time of that conference,” Assad said answering a question on the readiness to take part in the consultations in Astana. “We are ready to negotiate everything,” he added.

“When you talk about negotiation regarding whether to end the conflict in Syria or talking about the future of Syria, anything, it’s fully open, there’s no limit for that negotiation,” Assad stressed. “But who’s going to be there from the other side? We don’t know yet,” he said speaking about the members of the opposition’s delegation.

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“Is it going to be real Syrian opposition – and when I say “real” it means has grassroots in Syria, not Saudi one or French one or British one – it should be Syrian opposition to discuss the Syrian issues. So, the viability or, let’s say, the success of that conference will depend on that point,” he said.

Speaking on the readiness to discuss his position as president, Assad said: “Yeah, but my position is related to the constitution, and the constitution is very clear about the mechanism in which you can bring a president or get rid of a president. So, if they want to discuss this point, they have to discuss the constitution, and the constitution is not owned by the government or the president or by the opposition; it should be owned by the Syrian people, so you need a referendum for every constitution.”

“This is one of the points that could be discussed in that meeting, of course, but they cannot say “we need that president” or “we don’t need that president” because the president is related to the ballot box. If they don’t need him, let’s go to the ballot box. The Syrian people should bring a president, not part of the Syrian people.”

When asked if he plans to run for the president again, Assad said this depends on two things. The first one is “the will of the Syrian people.” Assad said if he wants to be president while the Syrian people don’t want him, even if he wins the elections, he won’t have strong support and he could not “achieve anything, especially in a complicated region like Syria.”

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“The second one; if I have that feeling that I want to be president, I will nominate myself, but that depends on the first factor.”

Russia-US ties and the future of Syrian settlement

A possible improvement in relations between Russia and the United States after US President-Elect Donald Trump takes office may positively affect the situation in Syria, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with French media. Thus Assad commented on the statement made by Trump on Saturday in which he said that “both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the world.”

When asked if he expected the situation in Syria to improve if relations between the US and Russia were normalized, Assad said:

“Yes, if we talk realistically, because the Syrian problem is not isolated, it’s not just between the Syrians. In fact, in many ways the Syrian conflict is a regional and even an international one. The regional and the international part of the conflict depends mainly on relations between the United States and Russia.”

“What he [Trump)] announced yesterday [on January 7] was very promising,” the Syrian president added. “If there is a genuine approach or an initiative towards improving the relations between the United States and Russia, that will affect every problem in the world, including Syria. So, I would say yes, we think that’s positive, regarding the Syrian conflict,” Assad concluded.

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