Last updated: 25 February, 2013

Fall of Assad prerequisite to talks, says Syrian rebel chief

President Bashar al-Assad must fall, “all the killing” must end and the Syrian army must withdraw from all cities before any dialogue can begin with the regime, rebel chief Selim Idriss said on Monday.

The Free Syrian Army’s chief of staff Idriss spoke to pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Arabiya after a groundbreaking statement in Moscow by Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem that Assad’s regime is “ready for dialogue with all who want dialogue, including those who are carrying arms”.

“Muallem wants us to sit with him at the negotiating table… I am not going to sit with him or with any other member of his clique before all the killing stops, or before the army withdraws from the cities,” said Idriss.

The rebel chief also called for “the departure from power of the head of this criminal gang (Assad)”.

“Security and army heads who gave orders to kill must be tried,” he added.

“We, the rebel fighters, will not go (to the negotiating table) until these demands are respected… We insist on these conditions,” said the general.

“We have not received an official proposal for talks with guarantees. We do not trust the regime.

“But we are willing to meet and discuss if there are clear foundations” for such talks, Idriss told the Saudi-owned channel.

Muallem’s statement came after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose government is pushing for a negotiated solution to Syria’s spiralling conflict, which the UN says has left some 70,000 people dead.