Russia Makes New Syrian Proposals

Russia Makes New Syrian ProposalsRussia Makes New Syrian Proposals

A Russian document circulating at the United Nations has proposed a constitutional reform process in Syria, lasting 18 months, to be followed by presidential elections.

The eight-point proposal drawn up by Russia is reported not to rule out President Bashar al-Assad’s participation in the elections—something his enemies 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 is quoted by Reuters as saying.

It says certain Syrian opposition groups should take part in key talks on the crisis in Vienna on Saturday.

Around 20 countries and international bodies will meet in the Austrian capital on Saturday to try to push forward a peace plan for Syria that would include a ceasefire between the Syrian government and some opposition groups.

Russia and Iran are at odds with the United States and its European and Arab allies over which groups should be branded as “terrorists” and which ones qualify as members of the opposition.

The debate will determine who will play a role in the political process.

While the United Nations has branded the Islamic State militant group, the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front and other smaller groups as terrorists, the envoy said it was up to the countries involved to come up with a shared view.

  “Momentum” of Syria Talks

The UN peace envoy for Syria has urged world powers to build on the “momentum” of new international talks and come up with a political process to end the four-year war.

“The momentum in Vienna needs to not be missed,” Staffan de Mistura told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council.

The envoy said the meetings must “bring some deliverables to the Syrian people. One of them should be reduction of violence.”

Three working groups will begin meetings on Wednesday to address differences over terrorism, the opposition and the humanitarian crisis from the war that has left 250,000 dead.

“My job is to make sure that big countries like the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and Iran come around the table and come up with a political process,” said de Mistura.

“It’s time for those countries to pick up those challenges.”

During his closed-door meeting with the council, de Mistura held out the prospect of a “concrete outcome” to the Vienna talks, diplomats said.

   Siege of Airbase Broken

Syria’s Army broke a more than year-long militant siege of a military airbase in the country’s north on Tuesday, scoring its first major breakthrough since Russia’s air campaign began.

Troops, backed by pro-government militia, broke through the Islamic State group’s siege of the Kweyris military airport in northern Aleppo province.

A group of soldiers penetrated IS lines west of the airport and reached government troops inside the base, firing into the air in celebration.

Experts said the base could be used by Russian planes in their air war militants, aiding their efforts to retake Syria’s second city of Aleppo.