“They will not be victorious no matter how much they conspire,” al-Moallem said. He said arming the rebels “is a dangerous decision because it aims at prolonging the crisis, prolonging the violence and killing and encouraging terrorism.”
President Barack Obama’s change of policy was partly based on a U.S. intelligence assessment that Assad had used chemical weapons, but Kerry expressed deeper concern about Assad’s foreign support. He said that Iranian as well as Hezbollah fighters had joined the war.
Al-Moallem denied that any Iranian fighters were in Syria. Damascus acknowledges that Hezbollah is assisting government troops.
The foreign minister said his regime was willing to take part in a peace conference, but would go to Geneva not to hand over power to the other side but rather to establish “a real partnership” and a national unity government that includes representatives of all Syrian society.
“President Bashar Assad will not step down,” he said. “If anyone has such illusions on the other side, my advice to them is not to go to Geneva,” he said, rejecting the opposition’s demand that Assad’s departure from power should top the agenda in at the peace conference.
He insisted Syria will not accept any solutions or ideas dictated from the outside.
Syria’s main opposition bloc said the willingness of Assad’s regime to attend the peace talks is not genuine and neither are the government’s assurance it want to “build a real partnership” in Geneva.
“As it has done with all previous initiatives of the U.N. and Arab League missions, the Assad regime is stalling for time by attending Geneva,” the statement by the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition said. “For Assad, this creates an opportunity for more destruction and for the Assad forces to gain more ground in Syria.”