The office of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has denied comments attributed to him by a Russian news agency which quoted him as saying his departure is not up for discussion.
“What the Russian news agency Interfax has published as comments made by President Assad are inaccurate,” said the Syrian presidency's press office.
The statement came after Interfax quoted Assad sounding a defiant note in a meeting with Russian parliamentarians in the Syrian capital Damascus, Al-Alam reported on Friday.
“If we wanted to surrender, we would have surrendered from the start,” Assad had been quoted as saying by the Russian agency.
“This issue is not under discussion,” he reportedly added when asked about Western and opposition calls for him to stand down.
“Only the Syrian people can decide who should take part in elections,” he said in the remarks translated into Russian.
Syrian government and the foreign-backed opposition are due to hold peace talks in Switzerland from Wednesday, with Assad's role in Syria's future expected to be a key stumbling block.
The government, backed by a considerable public opinion, says departure of Assad at the current time is not an acceptable option because the opposition has failed to adopt a unified stance toward country’s issues and has been leading a deadly war in the country with the help of extremist foreign militants who have now turned against them.
Assad has repeatedly said in different interviews that should the opposition introduces a plan that saves the country and ensures a better future, the government is ready to cooperate.
The war in Syria started in March 2011, when pro-reform protests turned into a massive insurgency following the intervention of Western and regional states.
The unrest, which took in terrorist groups from across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, has transpired as one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history.
More than 130,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the turmoil.
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