The government is to include representatives of the regime and opposition figures, such as Khatib and Jamil, and to be led by an “unprovocative” figure.
Alongside the plan by the United Nations (UN) envoy to Damascus to freeze the conflict in Aleppo in order to prevent the city from falling into the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Moscow and Cairo are preparing for a conference between the Syrian regime and the opposition in the hope of bringing them together in a transitional government that “fights terrorism.”
It is almost confirmed that Russia will invite the Syrian government and part of the Syrian opposition to a conference in Moscow entitled Moscow I instead of the Geneva III conference. According to news coming out of Moscow, the plan – prepared in coordination between the Russian Foreign Ministry, Egyptian authorities and the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura – calls for inviting two delegations for a dialogue in the Russian capital.
The first is the Syrian government delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Walid al-Muallem. The second delegation will include opposition figures such as former head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, head of the People’s Will Party, former Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, a number of figures who left the Coalition, the National Coordination Committee and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party headed by Saleh Muslim whose units are fighting ISIS in northern and eastern Syria.
According to Russian and UN sources, the agenda of the conference to be held between the two sides includes establishing a transitional Syrian government with extensive powers while maintaining Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s authority over the army and security institutions. The government is to include representatives of the regime and opposition figures, such as Khatib and Jamil, and to be led by an “unprovocative” figure. The mission of the government will include creating a constituent body, either elected or appointed, that will radically amend the Syrian constitution. About two years after establishing the transitional government, parliamentary elections can take place followed by a presidential election that Assad can run in.
The Russians and the Egyptians are counting on the fact that the goal of this initiative is to push the political process forward. They believe that fighting terrorism is currently a priority in Syria and that the success of this process requires mobilizing the greatest possible number of national forces to confront ISIS, al-Nusra Front and other al-Qaida-style organizations.
According to the sources of the parties involved in preparing for the Moscow 1 conference, stopping the progress of terrorist forces in Syria must be done quickly without waiting for the results of the air strikes by the Western Coalition. Russian and Egyptian officials believe it is necessary to preserve the structure of the Syrian army which will eventually accommodate thousands of officers and soldiers who fled or who failed to report to duty at their bases or defectors who did not join al-Qaeda-style organizations. The army is to also accept in its ranks fighters who will take part in fighting ISIS, al-Nusra and other such organizations.
Moscow and Cairo contacted a number of opposition political and partisan figures and received delegations from inside and outside Syria, including tribal delegations that represent major clans in northern and eastern Syria. Russia and Egypt want to ensure support for this dialogue by the largest possible number of Syrians.
UN sources believe that Assad will accept this initiative but there is a need to convince his ally Iran. Syrian sources, however, deny that, stressing that dialogue between Moscow and Damascus in this regard has not reached a final conclusion yet.
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