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Damascus does not mind holding another parliamentary election after talks in Geneva

The Syrian government does not mind holding new parliamentary election after talks with opposition in Geneva, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told TASS on Tuesday.

"If a decision is made at talks in Geneva that it is necessary to hold such parliamentary election, then it will be held," Mekdad said. "The Syrian government does not have any objections against holding new election," he added.

The deputy foreign minister noted that reforming the parliament is not ruled out in accordance with the results of talks. "Even the name of the parliament may be changed in accordance with the new constitution. It is possible to establish a bicameral parliament, as it is now unicameral," Mekdad said.

In this case, the new parliament will be elected in accordance with the new constitution that will be prepared by the government of national accord. "That's why there are no objections against holding the election now and holding new election after talks in Geneva," he added.

Talking about parliamentary election due on April 13, Mekdad noted that it will be held in accordance with provisions of the existing constitution. "The government is obliged to respect the constitution. The constitution requires holding such election to continue parliamentary activities and so on. In fact, Syria is going through a hard stage of its life, and difficulties require holding this election," he concluded.

Changes to list of 12 de Mistura principles

The Syrian government has proposed the introduction of a number of changes to the unofficial document of 12 principles prepared by the UN Secretary-General's special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. The discussion of the list should be continued at the Geneva talks, Mekdad went on to say.

"He has indeed presented to us a 12-point document. We have studied this document," he said. "We believe that it is necessary to discuss this document during the forthcoming negotiations. We want to introduce some changes to improve it."

Mekdad stressed that Damascus has no objections against holding direct talks with opposition in Geneva in addition to meetings with participation of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

"This is a topic for discussion with de Mistura," Mekdad said answering a question on the possibility to proceed to direct talks during the next round of negotiations. "So far, he insisted that talks continue with his mediation. We do not have objections against direct talks," he added.

Mekdad noted that the positions of all participants should be considered at Geneva talks. "As of today, we are aware only of the demands of the Riyadh group supported by Qatar, United States, Turkey and so on. However, other groups, such as 'Moscow-Cairo', other groups of the internal opposition that have more relations to Syria, are not represented at the talks," he said.

"Syria should be represented by those people that are directly connected to the country and that care for peace," Mekdad concluded.

Attempts to divide country

The diplomat stressed that Damascus is against federalization of Kurdish territories in Syria and attempts to divide the country.

"We are against everything that involves attempts to divide the country," Mekdad said. "Everyone has their rights in Syria, including the rights of Kurds that should be discussed nationwide. Kurds have lived in Syria since it had been founded, so we do not see any point in declaring such federalism in the country," he added.

"If there is some kind of imbalance, Syrians should decide by themselves on how to eliminate this imbalance between the peoples of Syria. However, this is the exclusive right of the Syrian people," Mekdad said.

Meanwhile, Syrian Kurds should participate in Geneva talks on peaceful settlement.

"We think that all interested parties should participate in Geneva talks, including Syrian Kurds," Mekdad said.

He added that the Syrian government does not divide the people of the country on an ethnic basis. "Syria is a small country, it is not like Russia or Soviet republics. The smallest republic of the former Soviet Union has the same area as Syria. That's why we do not consider declaring federalization somewhere in Syria but we support participation in these talks by all interested parties, including Kurds," the diplomat concluded.

West's pressure on issue of Assad's future

According to the official, Syria will not give in to the West that insists on resignation of President Bashar Assad, as only Syrian people can decide on issues of governing the country.

Answering a question on whether the issue of Assad's future was raised at Geneva talks, Mekdad said: "We have one answer to this question. Everything that concerns the country's leadership, governing the country is the concern of Syrian people."

"The time has passed when US demanded that leaders of countries resign. If the Riyadh group thinks that it is ready to govern the country, it is strongly mistaken. However, this does not mean that they will not raise this issue at the upcoming talks in Geneva," he noted.

The diplomat reminded that Assad was elected as president by the Syrian people by democratic means. "The Syrian people have the supreme right to decide on who will rule the country," Mekdad said.

Western countries that are trying to boost their influence in the Middle East are behind demands on Assad's resignation, the deputy foreign minister noted. West's interference led to overthrow of authorities and riots in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, he added noting that several countries in the region are helping them. "Who are those saying that they want democracy in Syria? They are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey. These countries were in fact West's leverage against Syria. We have only one choice - not to give up. This is what happened in Syria," he said.

"If we wanted to implement West's policy in Syria, we would not have fought against terrorists for five years. We would have given up Syria at the start of the war, and that's all," Mekdad concluded.

[Source: Itar Tass, Damascus, 12Apr16]

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