Assad must leave 6 months into transition: Opposition

Assad must leave 6 months into transition: Opposition

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LONDON — Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad must leave power after six months of negotiations on a transitional government, opposition negotiator Riyad Hijab said on Wednesday in London as he presented his group’s road map for peace in Syria.

Hijab is the general coordinator of the High Negotiations Committee, the main opposition group involved in stalled UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva.

The proposed process would start with six months of negotiations to set up a transitional administration made up of figures from the opposition, the government and civil society. The transitional body would then run the country for 18 months, at the end of which there would be elections.

“This transitional period will begin with the departure of Bashar Al-Assad and his clique, and of course those who have committed crimes against the Syrian people,” Hijab said.

Syria’s main opposition negotiating group would reject any deal struck by Russia and the United States on Syria’s fate that was very different from its own proposed transition plan, Hijab said.

“If what the Russians and the Americans agree upon is very much different from what the Syrians aspire to, then we shall not accept it,” Hijab said.

“It’s not a question of keeping Assad in for six months or one month or one day, in this transitional period. The Russians and Americans know that. They know the position of the Syrian people, they have sacrificed a lot and they will not give up this demand. There cannot be a solution in Syria unless it is a solution that satisfies the aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the group’s proposals offered the first credible picture of a peaceful Syria without Assad.

“There is still a chance that this vision can be made to work,” Johnson wrote in a column in Wednesday’s Times newspaper.

“If the Russians and Americans can together create a ceasefire, then the talks can restart in Geneva with the difference, perhaps, that all sides will by then have seen at least the scaffolding of a post-Assad Syria.”
Moscow and Washington are backing opposite sides in the 5-1/2-year-old Syrian conflict, with the Russians fighting on Assad’s side while the Americans back opposition groups and insist Assad must go. — Reuters