Russia to propose 18-month reform process for Syria

November 11, 2015 07:33
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in this file picture taken on Oct. 20. Photo: Reuters

Russia wants the Syrian government and opposition to agree on launching a constitutional reform process of up to 18 months, followed by early presidential elections, according to a draft document obtained by Reuters.

The eight-point proposal, drawn up by Moscow before international talks on Syria this week, does not rule out President Bashar al-Assad's participation in the elections -- something his foes say is impossible if there is to be peace.

"[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," the document said.

A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman denied that any document was being prepared by Russia for the international meeting on Syria this week in Vienna.

"This information does not correspond to reality," said the spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova.

The document said the Syrian sides should agree on such steps at a future conference to be organized by the United Nations.

It said the reform process would not be chaired by Assad, but by a candidate agreed by all sides.

Russia and Iran have been Assad's top allies during Syria's nearly five-year war.

The United States, its Gulf allies and Turkey have said he must leave power for there to be peace.

Moscow has stepped up its diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.

At a first round of talks in Vienna late last month, it said it wanted opposition groups to participate in future discussions and exchanged a list of names with Saudi Arabia.

The Western stand on Assad means that the Russian proposals are likely to run into stiff opposition.

"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?" British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond asked on Monday.

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