WASHINGTON — Eleven Western and Middle Eastern powers on Thursday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against holding elections, saying that the vote would have no credibility amid the country’s brutal civil war.
In a joint statement, the 11 core members of so-called Friends of Syria urged Assad instead to embrace a plan outlined in Geneva talks that includes a transitional government as a way out of the three-year war.
“Elections organized by the Assad regime would be a parody of democracy, would reveal the regime’s rejection of the basis of the Geneva talks and would deepen the division of Syria,” said the statement, as issued by the US State Department.
The 11 nations include Western powers the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy as well as key regional opponents of Assad: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Arab powers Egypt and Jordan are also part of the group, which does not include Assad’s allies Russia and Iran.
The statement said that a credible election would be impossible with millions of Syrians displaced.
“Bashar al-Assad intends these elections to sustain his dictatorship,” it said.
“An electoral process led by Assad, whom the United Nations considers to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, mocks the innocent lives lost in the conflict,” it said.
Assad — whose family has ruled Syria for more than four decades — has not announced his candidacy in elections expected before July but is widely expected to run.
Parliament has approved a law that essentially bars opposition candidates from running, virtually ensuring Assad’s re-election.
The US State Department earlier described Assad’s prospective re-election campaign as “disgusting.”