Any suggestions of President Bashar al-Assad resigning could be discussed only after a dialogue with Syrian rebels begins, Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said Tuesday, according to Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency.
Setting his resignation “as a condition before dialogue means that there will be no dialogue,” Jamil said during a visit to Russia, according to the report.
He added that “the entire Syrian people should be asked” about such a possibility. “If this issue is being imposed on us from abroad, it is a very dangerous precedent in international relations,” he said, according to RIA Novosti.
Syrian state-run news agency SANA quoted Jamil as saying that Syria “has kept its eyes set on achieving the national reconciliation in Syria.”
Jamil and a delegation are in Moscow. Russia has major trade deals with Syria and, along with China, has blocked repeated efforts in the U.N. Security Council to pass resolutions that many other countries argued could have pressured the Syrian regime to halt its violent crackdown on the opposition.
On the ground: 1 journalist killed, 2 missing
The Syrian regime severely restricts access to foreign journalists, and those who do manage to enter the country risk detention or even death.
A Japanese journalist was the latest to pay the ultimate price when she was killed Monday during a gun battle in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and commercial hub.
Mika Yamamoto, who worked for the independent Japan Press news agency, was reporting on the rebel Free Syrian Army, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.
“I have seen the news on the television. I really did not want to believe it,” her father, Koji Yamamoto, told the Japanese news agency Asahi on Tuesday. “She always thought of children and women under the fire of conflict and kept saying it’s her mandate to tell the stories of those people to the world.”
At least 19 other journalists have been killed while covering the conflict, says the nonprofit group Committee to Protect Journalists.
On Monday, two other journalists went missing and may have been arrested by the Syrian army. They work for Alhurra TV, a U.S.-based station.
“A Japanese female journalist was killed by the regime forces, who also attacked (an) Alhurra TV crew and captured the reporter and his Turkish cameraman,” a man identified as Capt. Ahmed Ghazala of the Free Syrian Army said in an amateur video that Alhurra aired.