Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that his government was ready to negotiate with the opposition in the proposed peace talks to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan. It is yet unclear who would lead the opposition in the talks and no date has been set.
Syrian state news agency SANA reported that the president said, "We are ready to negotiate about everything." In response to a question about whether the negotiations would involve a discussion on his position as president, Assad said, "Yes, but my position is linked to the constitution. If they want to discuss my presidency, they (opposition) must discuss the constitution.”
The Syrian president also indicated that any new constitution must be decided on by a referendum, and that it was the decision of the Syrian people to elect the president.
Assad said that negotiation on Syrian issues must only involve Syrian groups and should not involve groups backed by Saudi Arabia, France and Britain. The main Syrian opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee, is backed by Saudi Arabia.
Rebel groups under the command of the Free Syrian Army had recently expressed reservations about their possible participation in the upcoming talks due to violations of the ceasefire, especially in Wadi Barada near Damascus. Wadi Barada is a vital source of water for the capital and recently, its water facilities were bombed. Both the government and the opposition have blamed each other for the strikes.
Assad reiterated the government’s stance that the ceasefire had been violated by the rebels and that his army would recapture all of Syria including Wadi Barada.
Last month, Russia said that it had reached an agreement with Assad, Iran and Turkey to hold peace talks after the rebels lost their stronghold in eastern Aleppo. It is uncertain how the talks will unfold among the four parties as the Assad regime is backed by Iran and Russia but the opposition is backed by Turkey.