The Syrian government believes the civil war ravaging the country has reached a stalemate and would call for a ceasefire if long-stalled peace talks in Geneva were to take place, the deputy prime minister told Britain's Guardian on Thursday.
"Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," Qadri Jamil told the newspaper.
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When asked what his government would propose at the stalled Geneva-2 summit, he replied: "An end to external intervention, a ceasefire and the launching of a peaceful political process in a way that the Syrian people can enjoy self-determination without outside intervention and in a democratic way."
Jamil stressed that his comments represented the government's position.
The United States and Russia have been trying to bring together members of President Bashar Assad's government and rebel representatives for a Geneva conference following the failure of a first round of talks in June.
The rebels boycotted the initial summit and are refusing to attend Geneva-2 unless Assad resigns.
Jamil insisted that Assad was not about to quit, saying: "Let nobody have any fear that the regime in its present form will continue."
He called on the international community to "get off our shoulders" and allow the government to implement "progressive reforms."
The deputy prime minister also revealed that the war had so far cost the Syrian economy around $100 billion (74 billion euros).
Jamil, who is a member of a small secular party, was recruited to the government last year in order to break the Ba'ath party monopoly.
Kerry: Security Council must act next week
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday it was essential that a Russia-US deal on eradicating Syria's chemical weapons arsenal be enforced and that the UN Security Council must act on it next week.
"The Security Council must be prepared to act next week," Kerry told reporters. "It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out in the strongest possible terms about the importance of enforcible action to rid the world of Syria's chemical weapons."
Envoys from the five big UN powers are meeting in New York before the UN General Assembly next week to discuss a plan to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control.
Russia and the United States brokered the deal last week to avoid possible US military strikes. Under the deal, Syrian President Bashar Assad would account for his chemical weapons within a week and see them destroyed by the middle of next year.
Kerry said there was little doubt that the Aug. 21 gas attack on civilians outside Damascus was the work of Assad's forces and not of the opposition.
"This fight about Syria's chemical weapons is not a game. It is real. It is important," Kerry added.
Kerry also said that recent comments by Iranian President Hassan Rohani, who said on Wednesday his government would never develop nuclear weapons, were positive, but cautioned that "everything needs to be put to the test."
Reuters contributed to this report
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