Neither the forces of President Bashar al-Assad nor opposition fighters were able to win the war in Syria, Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa said in an interview to be published on Monday.
Sharaa said the situation in the country was heading from bad to worse and that a “historic settlement," involving the formation of a national unity government “with broad powers,” was needed to end the conflict, according to comments carried by the Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper.
Assad has ultimate power in Syria while Sharaa, a Sunni Muslim, has a ceremonial role in a power structure dominated by Assad's Alawite minority. He has rarely appeared in public since the revolt against Assad erupted 21 months ago.
“No opposition can end the battle militarily, just as the security forces and army cannot achieve a decisive conclusion,” Sharaa said.
“Every day that passes, we are moving further away from a military or political solution, “ said Shara, who is the most prominent Sunni Muslim in the Alawite minority dominated regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
“We must position ourselves to defend Syria’s existence -- we are not in a battle for an individual or a regime.
“The various opposition forces -- whether armed or civilian, or linked to foreign powers -- cannot claim they are the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people,” he added, referring to the decision of Arab and Western governments last week to recognize the armed opposition.
The comments were Sharaa's first public remarks since July last year.
Sources close to the Syrian government say he was among a group of politicians who had pushed for dialogue with the opposition and objected to the military crackdown against an uprising that began peacefully.
Assad's government says it is fighting Islamist extremists backed by the Sunni rulers of Arab Gulf states and Turkey.
Several opposition sources say Sharaa is believed to be under house arrest, and opposition activists have announced his defection several times this year.