BEIRUT // Hizbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said yesterday his Shiite group, which has been fighting alongside President Bashar Al Assad’s forces in Syria’s civil war, would stay in Syria for as long as necessary.
“As long as the reasons (to fight in Syria) remain, our presence there will remain,” Mr Nasrallah said in a speech to tens of thousands of Lebanese Shiites marking the religious ceremony of Ashura in southern Beirut.
“Our fighters are present on Syrian soil...to confront all the dangers it faces from the international, regional and takfiri attack on this country and region,” Mr Nasrallah said, referring to the foreign Islamist rebels fighting in Syria.
Syria’s 32-month civil war has polarised the Middle East between Sunni Muslim powers such as Turkey and the Gulf Arab states who support the Sunni rebels, and Shiite Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizbollah who back Mr Al Assad, from the Alawite faith which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Hizbollah fighters led the fight to recapture the Syrian border town of Qusair earlier this year and activists say they have also been fighting alongside Mr Al Assad’s forces south of the capital Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo.
Meanwhile, a long-delayed conference aimed at ending the war will be held in Geneva on December 12, a Syrian government daily reported yesterday, citing diplomatic sources in Paris.
The Al Watan newspaper said that US Secretary of State John Kerry had told his French counterpart Laurent Fabius that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would announce the date on November 25.
It said that a source in the Syrian government declined to confirm the report.
The international community has been seeking for months to convene a Syria peace conference dubbed “Geneva II” but proposed dates have come and gone with no progress.
Munzer Aqbiq, an adviser to Ahmed Jarba, president of the opposition National Coalition, said that a date for the talks had still to be finalised.
“The organisers of Geneva II want the conference to be held before the end of the year. Dates have been proposed around mid-December. These not are not official dates. They are proposals which must be discussed,” Mr Aqbiq said.
More than 120,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising that erupted in Syria after Mr Al Assad’s forces launched a brutal crackdown on protests inspired by the 2011 Arab Spring.
The opposition wants the Syrian president’s departure from power to be a condition of any peace talks, while the regime has said the president’s role will not be negotiated.