In the wake of talks among various rebel factions in Saudi Arabia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared to put the kibosh on the prospect of peace talks, saying he refuses to negotiate with any of the “terrorist groups,” which Syrian officials broadly mean as rebels in general, who are still armed factions.
The Saudi conference ended with an agreement on confirming a committee to seek talks, though they have demanded Assad unconditionally be removed as part of any deal. The committee is reportedly going to be dominated by armed factions.
The Saudi conference and the committee it is producing includes only a fragment of the rebel movement in Syria at any rate, as many of the rebel groups weren’t invited, including every single Kurdish faction. Ahrar al-Sham, a large, al-Qaeda-linked faction, was at the talks, but walked out, and it’s unclear if they’ll be part of the committee.
Russia has been trying to get Syria’s government and rebels together on the deal to unite against ISIS, and has been pressing Assad on the matter. Today’s comments are a rare Assad rebuke of the effort, as he’s previously just offered vague support for the notion.