In this photo released by Syria's national news agency, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visits the Christain town of Maaloua, northeast of Damascus, in Syria on April 20, 2014. The Syrian leader visited the recaptured town of Maaloula on Easter Sunday as he seeks to persuade minorities that the government is their best protection against hardline Islamists. UPI | License Photo
DAMASCUS, Syria, April 21 (UPI) -- The Syrian government announced Monday that presidential elections will be held June 3.
The announcement comes as the Syrian civil war continues to rage into its third year, with more than 100,000 dead from the bloody conflict.
Many in the international community, including United Nations and Arab League Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi who mediated the peace talks between the Syrian regime and opposition, have warned Syria against holding elections before a transitional government is established. Brahimi said in March that holding such elections would deter the opposition from engaging further in peace talks with the government.
In early April, the U.S. Department of State issued a joint statement by the the Friends of Syrian People that cautioned against the "parody" of holding presidential elections under the current President Bashar al-Assad regime. The Friends of Syrian People is comprised of 11 countries (Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.) that came together in response to the Syrian crisis.
"... any unilateral decision by the Syrian regime to hold presidential elections would be entirely inconsistent with the Geneva Communique’s call for the establishment of a transitional governing body to oversee constitutional reforms leading to free and fair elections in a neutral environment. 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."
Syrian President Assad has been president since 2000 and won an unopposed re-election in 2007. He is expected to run again.