“I’m ready to negotiate”, says Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria says his government is ready to negotiate on “everything” in the proposed peace talks in Kazakhstan.

 

Assad made the remarks in comments to French media that were published by the Syrian state news agency SANA.

 

He noted that it was not yet clear who would represent the opposition and no date had been set.

 

Assad also said a ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia, his most powerful ally, ahead of the talks was being violated.

 

He said the army’s role was to recapture an area near Damascus where insurgents control the main water supply for the capital.

 

When asked if the government was ready to discuss his position as president, Assad said he agreed but his position is linked to the constitution.

 

“If they want to discuss this point they must discuss the constitution,” he said.

 

He indicated that any constitutional matter must be put to a referendum, and it was up to the Syrian people to elect the president.

Turkish Army kills up to 200 YPG fighters in Aleppo.

The Turkish military said its fighter jets hit Syrian Kurdish targets in northern Syria, and killed up to 200 fighters, according to state media.

The jets hit 18 targets in Maarrat Umm Hawsh, a region north of the city of Aleppo, the official news agency Anadolu said.

Quoting the army, the report claimed that between 160 and 200 fighters from the YPG (People’s Protection Units) group were killed in the raids on Wednesday night.

A Syrian-Kurdish forces leader, however, said that while Turkish jets and artillery were attacking, no more than 10 fighters had been killed so far.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said at least nine YPG fighters were confirmed killed and 26 people were injured in some 20 raids.

Anadolu said nine buildings used as YPG headquarters, meeting points, shelters and weapons depots were destroyed as well as four vehicles.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the death toll.

The Anadolu report said the YPG had attacked Turkish-backed Syrian rebels. However, the Observatory said it had no information on such an incident.

In August, Turkey launched a ground operation in northern Syria, targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group and the YPG, and continues to maintain a military presence in the neighbouring country.

The US considers the YPG to be a key force in the fight against ISIL in Syria.

Turkey says the group is an extension of its own outlawed Kurdish fighters – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – who have carried out a series of deadly attacks in Turkey over the past year.

US-Turkey tensions

Tensions between Turkey and the US have increased over the YPG, but Ankara has repeatedly said it will not allow a “terror corridor” on its southern border and wants to prevent the joining of the Kurdish “cantons” of Afrin and Kobane.

Turkey entered the Syrian war to try and remove ISIL from its border – which last month Ankara said it achieved – while also aiming to halt the westward advance of the YPG.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey would not “wait for terrorist organisations to come and attack us” during a speech in Ankara.

“These organisations, wherever their activities are, wherever they are nesting, we will go [there],” he said.

Kerry Tells UN that Russia Must Ground Syrian Air Force

US Secretary of State John Kerry demanded on Wednesday that Russia force Bashar al-Assad’s regime to ground its air force in order to revive hopes of a ceasefire in Syria’s civil war.

Addressing the UN Security Council, including his Russian opposite number Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry said efforts to find peace could yet be salvaged but only if Moscow takes responsibility for recent air strikes.

Kerry said that only Russian and Syrian war planes had been active in areas of northern Syria where on Monday a United Nations aid convoy had been destroyed from the air and on Tuesday a field clinic was bombed.

“I believe that to restore credibility to the process we must move forward to try to immediately ground all air craft flying in those key areas in order to de-escalate the situation and to give a chance for humanitarian assistance to flow unimpeded,” he said.

“And if that happens there’s a chance of giving credibility back to this process,” he said, referring to an agreement he reached with Lavrov in Geneva earlier this month to broker a cessation of hostilities.

“In Geneva, Russia related that Assad was prepared to live by the cessation of hostilities and would accept the idea of not flying over agreed upon areas,” Kerry said.

“But because of what’s happened in the past few days my friends we have no choice but to do that sooner rather than later, move immediately to restore confidence and implement a genuine ceasefire now.”

Moscow has rejected the idea that Russian or Syrian planes carried out Monday’s strike on the UN aid convoy, and Lavrov told the council that there would be “no more unilateral pauses” by Assad’s government forces.

He said that previous breaks in bombing by the government side had only allowed the rebels to re-arm and strengthen their positions and urged UN members to revisit the list of banned terrorist groups excluded from the ceasefire.

“If we can agree on this kind of comprehensive approach, and integrated multi-faced approach, the chances of a cessation of hostilities surviving and being successful will be better,” he argued.

Obama Seeks New Syria Strategy to Oust Assad & Defeat ISIS

President Barack Obama has asked his national security team to review US strategy toward Syria after concluding that the ISIS terrorist group may not be defeated with Bashar al-Assad in power, officials say.

Over the past week, the White House has convened four meetings of Obama’s national security team, which according to a senior official, were “driven to a large degree how our Syria strategy fits into our ISIS strategy,” CNN reports.

Obama’s long-contemplated strategy toward ISIS has come under sharp criticism as it has failed to halt the advance of terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The review is seen as a tacit admission that the strategy is not working.

“The president has asked us to look again at how this fits together,” a senior US official told CNN on condition of anonymity. “The long-running Syria problem is now compounded by the reality that to genuinely defeat ISIS, we need not only a defeat in Iraq but a defeat in Syria.”

Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, denied a formal strategy review but said Obama has joined with his national security team to discuss “what we’re targeting in Syria” and how “we’re supporting opposition and building them up as a counterweight to ISIS but also ultimately of course to the Assad regime.”

National Security Council spokesperson Alistair Baskey said Wednesday that “Assad has been the biggest magnet for extremism in Syria.” He emphasized that President Obama has made clear that “Assad has lost all legitimacy to govern.”

In a blunt memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that the Obama administration’s goal of ousting Assad was being undercut by its current military offensive against ISIS. The memo further said that the White House had no clear end game for the conflict.

The US launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq in August. A US-led coalition also began its military campaign against the group in Syria in late September.

In addition, the Pentagon plans to train and arm 5,000 “moderate” militants a year in Syria to battle both the government and the ISIS group.

A senior US official, however, told CNN that “it’s been clear for some time that supporting the moderate opposition in the hopes of toppling Assad, isn’t going to work.”

The ISIS terrorists– some of whom were amongst militants initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government– now control large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Credit: Press TV