GENEVA The fate of Syrian President Bashar al-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 at the start of a second week of talks with U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, accused the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) of failing to respond to its paper on basic principles and of not engaging fully.
Ja'afari, asked about the willingness of the government delegation to engage in serious talks on political transition, and the fate of Assad, replied: "These are two separate issues actually. 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 in the latest round of indirect talks, Ja'afari said. "We believe that a week and a half has been wasted without responding to a paper is a pretext for wasting time.
"The crisis in Syria is painful and we have clear instructions from our leadership," he added.
(Reporting by John Irish, Suleiman Al-Khalidi; writing by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Tom Miles)
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