Syrian opposition said on Saturday that for the peace talks to successfully end the five-year-long civil war in the country, President Bashar al-Assad must leave power, dead or alive. Chief negotiator for the opposition Mohammad Alloush said, “We believe the transitional period should start with the fall, or death, of Bashar al-Assad. It cannot start with the presence of the regime, or the head of this regime still in power.” Although fighting has eased since a ceasefire between the Syrian regime and rebel groups came into effect on February 27, Alloush said that the Assad government and its ally Russia had violated the truce hundreds of times. “There have been more than 350 violations during the 14 days, and that shows the regime violated the truce, or didn't commit to it,” he said.

The United Nations, which is coordinating peace talks set to begin in Geneva on Monday, is aiming for a transitional government to be established in Syria and a new Constitution to be implemented in six months. However, the opposition High Negotiations Committee has emphasised that the transitional government should be given full executive powers, a demand that the regime outright dismissed. “If they [the HNC] continue with this approach, there’s no reason for them to come to Geneva,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said during a press conference in Damascus on Saturday. “We will not talk with anyone who wants to discuss the presidency...Bashar al-Assad is a redline.”