Syria: regime admits stalemate and may call for a ceasefire
Deputy PM says neither side can win as Moscow paves way for Geneva Two talks
QADRI JAMIL, the deputy prime minister of Syria, says the country's fierce civil war is at a stalemate. According to Jamil, the regime is prepared to offer a ceasefire at upcoming Geneva talks.
In an hour-long interview with The Guardian, Jamil said: "Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side. This zero-balance of forces will not change for a while."
Jamil warned that the Syrian conflict, which international observers say has caused the death of more than 100,000 people, has cost the country's economy about $100bn (£62bn).
He said president Bashar al-Assad's government would call for a ceasefire at Geneva Two – the long-delayed second attempt to bring the warring sides together to arrange a peace deal. (No Syrian attended the first Geneva talks.)
The BBC correspondent Jim Muir, who has followed the Syrian uprising and war since its outbreak, said he believes Jamil's words reflect a drive from Russia to prepare for peace talks.
Jamil is a former communist with a doctorate from a Moscow university, whose party demonstrated against the regime at the beginning of the uprising. He was appointed last year to try to end the Ba'ath party's monopoly on power.
Asked what his side would offer the opposition at a second Geneva conference, he said: "An end to external intervention, a ceasefire and the launching of a peaceful political process." He spoke of the Syrian people enjoying "self-determination without outside intervention and in a democratic way".
But Muir believes his comments are unlikely to be taken seriously by the opposition, which is "deeply sceptical about talk of reform and democracy from government sources".
The Syrian National Coalition, the western-backed biggest single opposition group, is still refusing to take part in talks with the regime but is under pressure from the US to drop its boycott.
One Twitter user clearly thought Qadil was speaking without full authority of the Assad regime. With pitch-black gallows humour, Yalla Souriya tweeted: "Qadri Jamil will accidentally shoot himself twice then fall off a balcony for saying this." ·