Syrian President tells U.N. that talks hinge on countries ending rebel support

Story highlights

  • Bashar al-Assad meets with U.N. envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus
  • Brahimi is on a Mideast tour to garner support for peace talks in Geneva to end Syria's civil war
  • Remarks come one day after vice premier sacked following meeting with U.S. ambassador
  • Rebels have said they would reject any resolution that doesn't charge regime with war crimes

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told U.N. envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday that any political solution to the crisis in Syria hinges on outside countries cutting off support to the rebels, according to state-run media.

The two met in Damascus. It was the first time they've convened since December.

Brahimi, who is on a Mideast tour to bolster support for peace talks, spoke with al-Assad about the framework for holding a conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Any success for any political solution must be linked to the end of any military support to military groups and to pressure the countries that are supporting these groups and are facilitating the entry of the terrorists and mercenaries into Syria by providing money and military support," al-Assad said during the meeting, according to Syrian state television.

The Syrian president further said, "This is an important step to prepare the framework to allow a national dialogue and put clear mechanisms to reach the desired objectives at the upcoming peace talks."

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On Tuesday, Syria sacked Vice Premier Qadri Jamil for attending "unauthorized meetings abroad" after, a U.S. State Department official said, Jamil met over the weekend with U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford in Geneva. Also Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem reportedly met with Brahimi to discuss the potential Syria conference in Geneva.

"Minister al-Moallem affirmed that Syria will participate in the conference on the basis of the Syrian people's exclusive right to decide upon their political future and choosing their leadership, rejecting any form of foreign interference, and having the dialogue in Geneva be between Syrians and led by Syria," the Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Before being fired, Jamil suggested the conference would be held in November or December.

The rebels are not optimistic that any conference would yield a viable solution. Nineteen groups turned their backs on potential talks Sunday and warned that engaging the Assad regime was tantamount to treason.

They further said they would reject any resolution that doesn't oust al-Assad's government and charge it with war crimes.

"We consider participation in Geneva II and negotiating with the regime is trading the blood of martyrs and treason, and those will be held accountable in our courts," the coalition said in a video statement.

Brahimi was in Iran on Saturday and appeared at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who said Tehran, if invited, would participate in talks aiming to end the war via a political solution, according to Iran's state-run media.

More than 100,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, the U.N. estimates. It began in March 2011 after government forces cracked down on peaceful protesters during the Arab Spring movement and is now a full-blown civil war.