Russian Officials Submit Syrian Peace Plan to UN

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File

The Russian government provided the United Nations with an 18-month plan to end the Syrian civil war. Syrian opposition groups resist the plan, as it makes no mention of a transition process for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

“The Syrian people have never accepted the dictatorship of Assad and they will not accept that it is reintroduced or reformulated in another way,” declared Monzer Akbik, an official with the Syrian National Coalition.

Reuters has submitted the eight steps in the “Approach to the Settlement of the Syrian Crisis.” The first point is for the UN to designate the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) a terrorist organization. The second one is to compile a complete list of terrorist organizations in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted the nations need the list “‘so that no one has any doubt in regard to orientation of one or another armed group’ in Syria.”

“It’s our vision – it’s our proposal,” stated Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador. “And of course we are receptive for proposals from the other side. It’s just Russian contribution, how we launch a political process … to make parties work together, government and opposition.”

The U.S. is leading a coalition with other Western countries to target the Islamic State. Russia formed its own coalition with Iran that began airstrikes in late September. Russian officials have claimed the airstrikes are targeting ISIS, but evidence has surfaced that the warplanes have struck anti-Assad militias unaffiliated with ISIS.

Russian officials want Assad to remain in power. Officials from the U.S. and U.K. have issued statements contemplating a “transition period” in which Assad could stay in power, though they have yet to agree to a concrete time frame. The Russian plan suggests the current Syrian government and rebel groups “agree on launching a constitutional reform process up to 18 months, followed by early presidential elections.”

“How can the elections be fair when the citizens inside Syria are afraid of retaliation from the security services of the regime?” asked Hadi al-Bahra, a member of the current coalition.

The Russians mentioned Assad’s office once in the deal once, where they write that “the president of Syria will not chair the constitutional commission.”

The United Nations Security Council did not discuss the draft, but British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the members are “aware of the Russian proposal.” Britain, along with the U.S., Russia, and other governments, will attempt another peace talk in Vienna on Saturday to end the five-year conflict. UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura hopes these talks will “bring some deliverables for the Syrian people, and one of them should be reduction of violence.” He said, “I hope something in that direction can be achieved.”