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Syria’s opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun dismissed as “cosmetic” the appointment of a new Cabinet and said a possible Russian change of position on the year-long conflict is what matters.
President Bashar al-Assad assigned Agriculture Minister Riyad Hejab to form the first Cabinet under the country’s amended constitution, the state-run SANA news agency reported today.
“It’s one of Assad’s cosmetic moves meant to show life is normal and that he’s just fighting a bunch of terrorists,” Ghalioun said in a telephone interview from Dubai today. “What really counts now is the latest Russian position.”
Russian and U.S. officials will meet in Moscow on June 8 to seek a possible common approach to removing Assad and replacing him with someone acceptable to both sides, according to two U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity. More than 10,000 people have died since the country descended into sectarian conflict last year, the United Nations estimates.
In a June 3 speech, Assad said a new Cabinet will be formed as part of a series of changes his government has introduced in response to 15 months of unrest.
The 46-year-old Hejab served as governor of Deir Ezzor and Latakia and is a member of the ruling Baath party, according to SANA.
“We aren’t for Assad or for his opponents,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Paris on June 1. “We want to achieve a situation in which violence ends and a full- scale civil war is avoided.”
Russia and China have blocked resolutions pushing for stronger sanctions against Assad’s government.
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