Syria’s opposition said Monday that it rejected a peace plan offered by President Bashar al-Assad, describing it as “empty rhetoric.”
Western governments also rejected Assad’s plan, which was laid out in a televised speech Sunday—the first time the embattled leader has spoken in months. In his speech Assad accused the West of funding rebels in Syria.
“He has shown that he is a dictator that we cannot negotiate with. I think he has no desire to relinquish power. He wants to crush the opposition and he hopes he can stay over for the next 40 years like his father did,” Louay Safi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, told Al-Jazeera Monday.
Safi noted that Assad “did not offer to step down,” which he said would be the start of any negotiation for the country’s future. Syria’s opposition and Western governments have repeatedly called on Assad to remove himself from power.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland slammed Assad’s statements, which he made at the Damascus Opera House in front of a crowd of supporters.
“His initiative is detached from reality, undermines the efforts of Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, and would only allow the regime to further perpetuate its bloody oppression of the Syrian people,” Nuland said on Sunday, according to a statement.Overall, Assad’s speech shows that he will remain defiant in the face of internal and international pressure, at least for now. The speech outlined a plan to deal with the 21-monthlong conflict that has left an estimated 60,000 people dead.
“I reassure everyone that when it comes to combating terrorism, we will not stop as long as there is a single terrorist in Syria. What we started, we won’t stop,” Assad said, according to a transcript provided by state-run Syrian media SANA. He said, “The more we make progress in combating terrorism, the more there’s a chance for the success of this vision.”
Assad also said most of the rebels fighting against him are foreign fighters and Syrians that are “a gang of killers,” reported AFP.
“The one thing that is sure [is] that those who we face today are those who carry the Al-Qaeda ideology,” he said.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 20 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.