THE Syrian government believes the civil war ravaging the country has reached a stalemate and would call for a ceasefire if long-stalled peace talks in Geneva were to take place, the deputy prime minister has said.
"Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," Qadri Jamil said today.
When asked what his government would propose at the stalled UN-backed Geneva-2 summit, he told the Guardian: "An end to external intervention, a ceasefire and the launching of a peaceful political process in a way that the Syrian people can enjoy self-determination without outside intervention and in a democratic way."
Mr Jamil stressed that his comments represented the government's position.
The United States and Russia have been trying to bring together members of President Bashar al-Assad's government and rebel representatives for a Geneva conference following the failure of a first round of talks in June.
The rebels boycotted the initial summit and are refusing to attend Geneva-2 unless Assad resigns.
Jamil insisted that Assad was not about to quit, saying: "Let nobody have any fear that the regime in its present form will continue."
He called on the international community to "get off our shoulders" and allow the government to implement "progressive reforms".
The deputy prime minister also revealed that the war had so far cost the Syrian economy around $100 billion (74 billion euros).
Jamil, who is a member of a small secular party, was recruited to the government last year in order to break the Ba'ath party monopoly.
He went on to criticise the report on the Aug 21 chemical weapons report, accusing the UN of not being "thoroughly objective."
In an interview with Fox News that was aired yesterday, Mr Assad admitted he has chemical weapons but adamantly denied that his government was behind the attack, continuing to push the theory that the opposition was behind the strike.
"We have evidence that terrorist groups (have) used sarin gas," he said. "The whole story (that the Syrian government used them) doesn't even hold together. ... We didn't use any chemical weapons."
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, scorned Mr Assad’s denials his regime was responsible for the August 21 attack and urged the United Nations security council to pass a “meaningful” resolution to enforce the Geneva agreement when it meets next week.
However Mr Kerry pointedly stopped short of calling for the inclusion of a so-called “Chapter 7” resolution threatening the use force if Assad failed to comply – something Russia has already indicated it would reject.
Instead, Mr Kerry called only for a resolution containing “the strongest possible mechanism” to achieve the goal of putting the Assad regime’s chemical arsenal beyond use as quickly as possible.
Josie Ensor, Telegraph.co.uk