Middle East

Syria VP Farouq al-Sharaa says neither side can win war

Farouq al-Sharaa (26 August 2012)
Image caption Farouq al-Sharaa is reported to have pushed for dialogue with the opposition

Syrian Vice-President Farouq al-Sharaa has said neither the government's forces nor the rebels can win the 21-month-old conflict.

Mr Sharaa told Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar that the situation was worsening and a "historic settlement" was needed.

He said neither the opposition nor the security forces could bring about a decisive end to the ongoing violence.

Meanwhile an Italian citizen and two others were kidnapped near the town of Latakia, Italy's foreign ministry said.

All three are said to work at a steel plant and have different nationalities. The ministry has decided not to provide further information about the three in order to protect them.

In a separate development, there are reports that a senior Lebanese politician has been blacklisted by the US for allegedly assisting the Syrian government to launch attacks in Lebanon.

AFP news agency quoted a US Treasury Department statement as saying former information and tourism minister Michel Samaha had been labelled a "specially designated global terrorist".

'Syrian solution'

Mr Sharaa, a Sunni Muslim, has rarely been seen since the uprising began.

He is not believed to part of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle, which is dominated by members of his family and his minority Alawite sect.

However, the 74-year-old is the most prominent government figure to say in public that the military will not defeat the armed rebellion.

Mr Sharaa spoke to al-Akhbar from the capital, Damascus, where there has been intense fighting in recent weeks as government forces have used warplanes and artillery in effort to dislodge rebels from positions in the surrounding countryside.

"With every passing day the political and military solutions are becoming more distant," he said. "We should be in a position defending the existence of Syria. We are not in a battle for an individual or a regime.

"The opposition cannot decisively settle the battle and what the security forces and army units are doing will not achieve a decisive settlement."

Mr Sharaa said any settlement "must be Syrian" but also must involve regional powers and the UN Security Council, and lead to the formation of a "national unity government with broad powers".

It is not clear what kind of role Mr Sharaa has in mind for Mr Assad in such a government, says the BBC's James Reynolds in Turkey.

However, the opposition has rejected all suggestions which might keep him in power and their recent gains make them believe that they can topple him by force, not negotiation, our correspondent adds.

'Dramatic escalation'

On Monday, the army reportedly told people to leave the Palestinian refugee camp at Yarmouk in southern Damascus, suggesting an offensive was imminent.

It came a day after activists said fighter jets had bombed the camp, killing at least eight people sheltering in a mosque. Footage posted online purportedly showed bodies and body parts scattered on the stairs.

Image caption Rebels captured a tank after overrunning the Hananu military academy in Aleppo on Sunday

Afterwards, clashes flared between Palestinians from the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and rebel fighters.

"There is a state of real war in the camp now," resident Abu Mohammed told the AFP news agency on Monday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Monday urged Palestinians in the camp to "expel" what he termed "terrorist groups" there.

State news agency Sana said Mr Muallem had also telephoned Ban Ki-moon after the UN secretary general expressed concern at the "continued dramatic escalation of violence" in the camp.

Mr Muallem said it was the UN and international community who were "responsible for the frustrations of the Palestinians because they have not implemented UN resolutions related to their legitimate rights".

In northern Syria, rebels said they had captured the Hananu military academy in Aleppo, the second major installation taken in a week in the area.

Commanders also said they were launching an operation to seize control of the central province of Hama. Qassem Saad al-Din, a member of the rebel military command, told Reuters that fighters had been ordered to begin surrounding and attacking checkpoints.

"When we liberate the countryside of Hama province... then we will have the area between Aleppo and Hama liberated and open for us," he said.