Russia proposes plan that may keep Assad as president

Russia proposes document to UN detailing eight-point contitutional reform plan for Syria, ensuring regime leader Bashar al Assad’s participation in elections

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Men rush away from a site hit by airstrikes of forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria November 7, 2015

Updated Nov 12, 2015

Russia proposed a new plan to the United Nations for Syria, which includes the Syrian government and the opposition to agree on an eight-point proposal that includes ensuring the regime leader Bashar al Assad to partake in the early elections.

 “[The] popularly elected president of Syria will have the functions of commander-in-chief of the armed forces, control of special services and foreign policy" an article from the proposal said ahead of the international talks on Syria this week.

Moscow proposed that the eight-point plan, which will entitle launching a constitutional reform process of up to 18-months, followed by early presidential elections, a draft document collected by Reuters showed.  

Syrian opposition rejects Moscow’s plan for Syria

Syrian opposition figures rejected Russia’s draft proposal for Syria on Wednesday saying that the aim of the eight-point proposal was to keep President Bashar al Assad as president and marginalise all opposition groups.

Monzer Akbik, a member of the Syrian National Coalition said that the Russians were trying to play the game they have been playing since Geneva, pointing to the collapsed peace talks organised by the UN in 2014 and added:

"The Syrian people have never accepted the dictatorship of Assad and they will not accept that it is reintroduced or reformulated in another way."

Hadi al Bahra, a member of the coalition's political committee also rejected the proposal. He dismissed the plan for keeping the current system for elections, expressing that fair elections would not be possible when citizens inside Syria are afraid of retaliation from regime security services.

A coalition member, Michel Kilo, commented that the proposal as an attempt to preserve Assad and his state's apparatus by pushing for an unfair process of election.

"We are not against elections, we are Democrats. But it cannot be that we are forced to accept a president, who is a criminal, who destroyed the country - what logic is behind this idea?" Kilo asked.

Western nations says “Assad must go”

Many western countries, including the US, some Gulf nations and Turkey are insisting that Assad leaves his position to provide stability and peace in the country which was dragged into a civil war that has been ongoing for the past four-and-a-half years and has killed 250,000 Syrians.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond asked reporters at the United Nations on Monday, "How can we bring peace to a country that went through a vicious civil war in which 250-300,000 people died without removing the cause of that civil war?"

"We do not believe that it is going to be possible to bring the opposition groups into the political process and have an effective ceasefire unless we have a clear point at which President Assad will depart," he said expressing UK’s will to conduct a peaceful election.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said in September that Assad had to go and the US was looking for and hoping that “Russia and Iran, and any other countries with influence,” will help bring the negotiation for his departure, because it is preventing the crisis from ending.

Recently, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reiterated the US and many other country’s saying that Syria needs Assad’s departure. He also highlighted that Syria doesn’t need a transition period with Assad heading the country.

"There must be a transition in Syria which guarantees democracy and peace," he said, adding that Turkey would only support a transition process accepted by the Syrian people.

However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that the plan was not a solid plan, but Moscow had to come up with “different ideas and proposals."

The document also listed “terrorist groups” and suggested an agreement on the list. Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister said Moscow was wishing to see such an agreement on recognising those groups at the Vienna talks.

A western diplomat said that what Russia wanted was to blacklist all groups against the regime, including insurgent groups on the list, as well as DAESH.

“Russia wants this list to include all the groups that fight anything else except Islamic State, so that means groups against the regime," he said.

Russia has been one of the strongest allies of the Assad regime, from the beginning of their air campaign in Syria on September 30, targeting Assad’s opponents.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Russian air strikes in Syria have forced more than 120,000 Syrians to leave their homes and has killed more than 600 people, including civilians.

Russia is claiming that its warplanes were targeting DAESH positions in Syria. However, the US has said that the Russian air strikes were targeting US-trained “moderate Syrian position” fighting against Assad’s regime.

The top United States diplomat for the Middle East, Anne Patterson, said that 85 to 90 percent of air strikes were not against DAESH and has killed civilians, adding that Russia’s primary intent was to “preserve the regime.”

TRTWorld and agencies