Syria's President Bashar Assad stands next to his wife Asma as he addresses injured soldiers and their mothers during a celebration marking Syrian Mother's Day in Damascus, in this handout picture provided by SANA on March 21, 2016
Sana—Reuters
By Rishi Iyengar
March 22, 2016

The ongoing peace talks to negotiate an end to the civil war in Syria will not include a discussion on the future of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, his government’s top representative said Monday.

Bashar Ja’afari, the head of the Syrian delegation at the talks, said his government is focused on stopping terrorist groups in the region and insisted the ongoing dialogue has “nothing to do” with Assad staying in power, Reuters reported.

“The [terms of] reference of our talks do not give any indication whatsoever with regard to the issue of the President of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.

According to Reuters, U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura responded by warning that the refusal to discuss changes in government could jeopardize an already tenuous cease-fire brokered last month. Although the break in hostilities and the resumption of humanitarian aid is currently holding, he said, “neither of those can be sustained if we don’t get progress on the political transition.”

The disagreement in the peace talks comes as Russia, which recently announced it would withdraw from Syria and suspend its air strikes in the country, reported six cease-fire violations on Monday.

The High Negotiations Committee, an umbrella group representing several Syrian opposition parties at the talks, has accused the government of dragging its feet by rejecting discussions of Assad.

“It is not possible to wait like this,” the group’s spokesman Salim al-Muslat said, “while the regime delegation wastes time without achieving anything.”

[Reuters]

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