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Assad vows response to Israeli attack

Bashar-AssadSyrian President Bashar al has said his country will respond to any on its soil.

In an interview to be aired on Thursday by Al-Manar TV station, owned by the Shia Hezbollah group in neighbouring Lebanon, Assad also said he had already received the first shipment of an advanced Russian air defence system and would soon get the rest of the S-300 missile system.

The comments were first published on Thursday by the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar  which got excerpts of the interview.

has received the first shipment of Russian anti-aircraft S-300 rockets,” al-Akhbar  quoted Assad as saying. “The rest of the shipment will arrive soon.”

Israel has suggested its military might strike the Russian S300 missiles.

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition members meeting in the Turkish city of Istanbul have set preconditions on entering international peace talks scheduled for next month in Geneva.

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) will meet for a final day on Thursday to see how they can take part in peace talks being brokered by – a key Syria ally – and the United States to end the ongoing conflict.

The SNC laid out preconditions on Wednesday for the conference, which hopes to bring the Syrian government and opposition together for the first time.

They want, among other requirements, a political process that will lead to Assad’s ouster.

“The participation of the Syrians in any conference is tied to the presentation of a deadline for a solution and giving the necessary binding international guarantees,” said a statement released by the coalition.

“The Syrian Coalition welcomes the international efforts to find a political solution to what Syria has been suffering for two years while being committed to the principles of the revolution.”

Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Istanbul, said: “The opposition wants to see guarantees by the international community – binding measures as they say in their own words – that Assad will not be part of any settlement agreement.”

Major powers also remain divided on who will take part in the talks or when they will be held, Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, said on Wednesday.

Ban told reporters “active consultations” were still being held, while Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said the US government’s “entire foreign policy apparatus” was working to hold the meeting.

The US has also called on Lebanon’s Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria immediately. Fighters from the Shia militia-party backed by Iran are fighting alongside Syrian forces.

France says some 3,000 to 4,000 Hezbollah fighters are currently battling alongside regime troops in Syria.

Foreign envoys

Several foreign envoys from different countries, including Saudi Arabia, had joined Wednesday’s meeting in Istanbul.

Ahmet Davutoglu, ’s foreign minister, participated in the meeting in what was seen as an effort to break the deadlock in talks to push the movement forward.

US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and a top French diplomat on Syria also attended.

Veteran Syrian dissident Michel Kilo, head of a liberal bloc, also attended the talks at the Istanbul hotel alongside a top Saudi official.

Our correspondent said: “It’s very interesting that Kilo, a secular opposition figure whose internationally-backed bloc has been at the heart of the stalemate, arrived with these foreign officials and diplomats.”

Saudi Arabia wants the Coalition to expand in order to water down the influence of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, and has backed Kilo’s bid to join the opposition group.

Opponents, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have resisted the Saudis’ move.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, Turkey and the United States all back the revolt against Assad, but have conflicting visions for the National Coalition.

‘Worst crisis’

“Things are not moving. The opposition has hit its worst crisis yet,” said a Coalition member on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The meeting is supposed to choose a new coalition president, agree on an interim government and vote in new members to join the bloc, as well as reach a decision on the proposed Geneva conference.

Meanwhile, Syria’s foreign minister Walid Muallem told the Beirut-based Arab news channel Mayadeen that the Syrian government would allow its people to vote on agreements made at the so called Geneva 2 meeting.

“If we reach an agreement in Geneva, and I hope we will, it will be put to a referendum and if the people approve what we agreed upon, I can assure you it will be fully respected,” Muallem said.

Muallem has already said earlier this month that the Syrian government will, in principle, send delegates to the Geneva 2 conference.

Source:aljazeera

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