Syrian vice president Farouq al-Sharaa has dramatically admitted that neither sides of the 21-long conflict can win the civil war, echoing remarks, later retracted, of Russia's pointman on Syria Mikhail Bogdanov.
Sharaa, a Sunni Muslim in a structure dominated by Assad's Alawite minority, has rarely appeared in public since the beginning of the uprising but is one of the most prominent figures to say that embattled president Bashar al-Assad will not win.
He told Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper, that neither rebels nor Assad can "decide the battle militarily".
"The opposition cannot decisively settle the battle and what the security forces and army units are doing will not achieve a decisive settlement," he told the paper.
Sharaa called for an "historic settlement" to end the conflict, involving regional powers and the UN, in order to form a national unity government.
"With every passing day the political and military solutions are becoming more distant. We should be in a position defending the existence of Syria. We are not in a battle for an individual or a regime," he said.
He admitted that "change is inevitable" but criticised the newly-formed National Coalition for calling themselves the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
"Likewise the current leadership...cannot achieve change alone after two years of crisis without new partners who contribute to preserving (Syria's) national fabric, territorial unity and regional sovereignty".
Meanwhile, an Islamist faction of Syrian rebels captured an infantry base in the northern city of Aleppo. Rebels have brought the war to the capital, but failed yet to deliver a fatal blow to the government.