Syrian gov't rules out talks on Assad future, says focus is counter-terrorism

GENEVA - The fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad is not part of the negotiations with the opposition, the head of the Syrian government's delegation said on Monday, insisting that counter-terrorism efforts remained the priority for Damascus.
Bashar Ja'afari, speaking to reporters in Geneva at the start of a second week of talks with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, said: "President Assad has nothing to do with the Syria-Syria talks.
"The (terms of) reference of our talks do not give any indication whatsoever with regard to the issue of the President of the Syrian Arab Republic. This is something already excluded," he said. Little progress had been made, he said, accusing the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) of failing to respond to its paper on basic principles.
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