As Russia prepares to host Syrian peace talks on Monday, Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard has said that Denmark will support negotiations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I always stick to reality. And the reality is that the UN is in negotiations with the Assad regime. I support that because we need to stop the huge stream of refugees [and] we need to stop the the terrible human tragedies there are [in Syria],” Lidegaard told broadcaster DR.
See also: Syrian conflict playing out in Denmark
Beginning Monday, Moscow will host four days of peace talks that will attempt to find some sort of solution to end the conflict that has been ravaging Syria for four years. Although hopes for the talks are dim – Al Jazeera reports that opposition leaders are threatening to skip the talks over their doubts that Russia can serve as a neutral arbiter – Lidegaard said that negotiations with Assad are the only way forward.
“The problem is that it is Assad who is sitting at the negotiating table now and we need to reach peace as quickly as possible. Assad needs to be removed from power. But he is sitting with the power today so therefore we need to negotiate with his regime in order to get a transitional solution that can get him out of there,” the foreign minister told DR.
Syria’s Civil War is approaching its four-year anniversary. UN special envoy Staffan De Mistura said last week that the conflict has set the country back 40 years and has left at least 220,000 people dead and an additional one million wounded. The conflict has also left 7.6 million Syrians internally displaced while 3.3 million have fled the country. Additionally, the UN says that diseases like polio, typhoid and measles have now returned to Syria and around three million children are out of school.
Although Lidegaard lent Denmark’s support to negotiating with Assad, he stressed on Twitter that the dictator “will never be a part of Syria’s future”.