PARIS (Reuters) - Syria’s chief opposition coordinator Riad Hijab said on Monday that defeat in Aleppo would not weaken the resolve of opponents of President Bashar al-Assad to remove him from power.
“If Assad and his allies think that a military advance in certain quarters of Aleppo will signify that we will make concessions, then (I say) that will not happen. We will not make any concessions,” Hijab told reporters after meeting French President Francois Hollande.
The Syrian army and its allies are in the “final stages” of recapturing Aleppo after a sudden advance that has pushed rebels to the brink of collapse in an ever-shrinking enclave, a Syrian general said on Monday.
Hijab, once a prime minister under Assad, accused Russia of double standards by saying that the opposition was always demanding preconditions for peace talks when in reality Assad’s opponents wanted international resolutions that Moscow had agreed to at the United Nations to be implemented.
“The Russians voted this resolution. Why doesn’t it implement it? Why doesn’t it stop bombing? Why doesn’t it lift the blockades it has put in place with the Assad regime, Shi‘ite militias and the Iranian revolutionary guard?”
“The Syrians are dying of hunger. We want a real political transition ... that would enable Syria to go from a dictatorship to a democratic state,” he said.
Hijab, who presides over the High Negotiations Committee of opponents of Assad, also accused Assad’s forces and Russia of being unwilling and unable to fight Islamic State militants who control parts of the country and on Sunday retook the ancient city of Palmyra.
“Facing Daesh in Palmyra, they flee like rats. They are lions only in the face of disarmed civilians who cannot defend themselves, but when faced with Daesh in Palmyra or elsewhere they run like rabbits,” Hijab said.
Reporting by John Irish and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by Leigh Thomas