DAMASCUS – Syria will send delegates to a Geneva peace conference under President Bashar al-Assad's orders, but his grip over the war-torn country will not be under discussion, an official has said.
The January 22 peace conference is aimed at ending the nearly three-year-old civil war, a bloody stalemate which has killed an estimated 120,000 people and driven millions from their homes.
"Syria announces the participation of an official delegation under the orders of (Assad) and the demands of the Syrian people, with the top priority eliminating terrorism," said a foreign ministry source quoted by state media.
The source also said the delegation was not going to Geneva to hand over power, and that the condition stipulated by Syria's opposition and the West that Assad must not have a role in the country's future was out of the question.
"Our people will not allow anyone to steal their right to choose their future and their leaders, and what is key about Geneva is to assert the Syrians' rights, and not of those who are spilling the people's blood."
Iran, Turkey call for ceasefire
Iran, the Assad said that both it and Turkey, which supports the opposition, would press for a ceasefire in Syria ahead of the planned peace talks.
"All our efforts should be carried out to finish the conflict and reach a ceasefire even before Geneva 2," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a news conference in Tehran with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.AFP