Britain’s Foreign Secretary-Philip Hammond
March 31, 2016 – BEIRUT (Reuters) – President Bashar al-Assad’s proposal to form a unity government including independent and opposition figures will not solve Syria’s conflict, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Thursday.
Hammond was responding to comments Assad made in an interview published this week, when he said a national unity government should be agreed at peace talks in Geneva. This government could then draw up a new constitution, leading to elections.
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“Bashar al-Assad talks about a unity government, by which he means bringing one or two handpicked, regime-friendly oppositionists into minor posts in the government,” he told a news conference in Beirut. “That is not sufficient.”
Britain and other world powers which form the International Syria Support Group believed that a political settlement in Syria needed a transitional government instead, Hammond said.
Assad’s comments this week gave the clearest sense yet of how he believes peace talks with the opposition should progress when they resume at the United Nations in Geneva next month.
He told the Russian RIA news agency that the idea of a “transitional body”, which the opposition and its Western backers have said should be agreed at the Geneva talks and should assume full powers in Syria, was illogical and unconstitutional.
Hammond said there must be a “change of direction” in Syria.
“There has to be the creation of a government that represents all the people, all the communities, all the faiths in Syria and it has to be a government that is not – or at least in the future will not – be led by Bashar al-Assad.”