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Syria’s Assad dismissive of Kerry remark on negotiations

Syria’s Assad dismissive of Kerry remark on negotiations

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian President Bashar Assad said Monday that only Syrians can decide his future — a statement that appeared to dismiss U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s remark that the U.S. would be willing to talk with Assad to help broker a political resolution to the country’s civil war.

Asked about Kerry’s statement regarding potential talks with the Syrian government, Assad said, “We are still hearing statements and have to wait for actions. Then we will decide.” Assad added that any “talk about the future of the Syrian president is for Syrian people alone.”

Assad said Damascus is not concerned about comments made from abroad, describing them as “bubbles that disappear after some time.”

The Syrian leader spoke to Iranian TV after a meeting with visiting Iranian Economy Minister Ali Tayebnia. Tehran is one of Assad’s closest allies and strongest backers in his battle against rebels trying to remove him from power.

Kerry said in an interview with CBS News that the U.S. is pushing for Assad to seriously discuss a transition strategy to help end Syria’s four-year conflict, which has killed more than 220,000 people since it started four years ago.

Some in the Middle East saw Kerry’s statement as a shift in America’s policy on Syria after President Barack Obama’s repeated calls for Assad to step down. Damascus has long accused Washington and its allies of militarizing Syria’s conflict.

Last year, the U.S. joined talks in Switzerland with Assad’s foreign minister and members of the U.S.-backed moderate Syrian opposition, but those talks failed when Assad’s representatives refused to discuss how to create a transition government.

Asked about Kerry’s statement regarding potential talks with the Syrian government, the French Foreign Ministry said Paris’ position opposing talks with Assad remained unchanged.

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