The Syrian government has agreed to attend peace talks, but insisted that Bashar al-Assad’s position as president is not negotiable.
The opposition had demanded that Assad steps down, but his government had described such demands as “delusions and dreams”.
A statement, issued by the foreign ministry via the SANA news agency on Wednesday, said a delegation would attend the planned Geneva II talks in January. It said that Assad would not “surrender power”.
“The age of colonialism, with the installation and toppling of governments, is over. They must wake from their dreams,” the statement said. “If they insist on these delusions, there is no need for them to attend Geneva II.”
“The official Syrian delegation is not going to Geneva to surrender power,” the statement read.
The government delegation would convey “the wishes of the Syrian people, foremost among them the elimination of terrorism,” it said referring to rebels fighting Assad’s regime.
The Geneva II talks, being pushed by the UN, aims to create a transitional government to end the civil war.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition says it will not attend the talks, which is the first face to face talks that the government would have with the opposition group, unless the Syrian regime guarantees Assad will be barred from any role in the transitional government.
Turkey and Iran has called for a cease fire ahead of the negotiation.
But on Tuesday, the rebel Free Syrian Army’s commander, General Salim Idriss, said his forces would not agree a ceasefire to smooth the way for talks.
The Syrian statement was the first formal response from Damascus to this week’s announcement of the talks.