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The U.S. and the EU said that the Syrian president offered no meaningful concessions and should surrender power at once.
Syrian opposition groups have rejected a new peace initiative by President Bashar al-Assad that includes a national reconciliation conference and a new government and constitution, Al Jazeera reports. Assad was speaking on Sunday in a rare address to the nation, his first since June, demanded that Western countries stop funding and arming rebels and said he is ready to hold a dialogue with those “who have not betrayed Syria”. He spoke in a hall at the Opera House in central Damascus, and the audience frequently broke out in cheers and applause. The Syrian opposition, including rebels on the ground, were quick to reject Assad’s proposal. Louay Safi, a member of the Syrian National Coalition opposition bloc, dismissed the address to the nation as “empty rhetoric”. “He did not offer to step down, which was a precondition to start any negotiation,” Safi told Al Jazeera. Opposition leaders have repeatedly said they will accept nothing less than the president’s departure, dismissing any kind of settlement that leaves Assad in the picture.‘
Detached from reality’
The US state department said Assad’s speech “is yet another attempt by the regime to cling to power and does nothing to advance the Syrian people’s goal of a political transition”. “His initiative is detached from reality, undermines the efforts of Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, and would only allow the regime to further perpetuate its bloody oppression of the Syrian people,” Victoria Nuland, the state department spokesperson, said. On Monday, the Pope has appealed to the international community to stop the war in Syria before the country becomes a “field of ruins”, the Guardian informs. On the other hand, Iran welcomed Assad’s plan, saying he had rejected violence and offered a “comprehensive political process” to end the conflict. Catherine Ashton, EU foreign affairs chief, said Brussels would “look carefully if there is anything new in the speech, but we maintain our position that Assad has to step aside and allow for a political transition”.As regional fears mount over spillover from Syria’s civil war, Israel plans to build a fence along its border with the embattled country, CNN informs. The announcement came during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s weekly Cabinet address, in which he cited the construction of a 230-kilometer fence along Israel’s southern border with Egypt.