There are two acceptable scenarios: either al-Assad resigns before the next presidential election and does not run for presidency or he quits after the election.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that Russia could cease to resist the inclusion of the Saudi-supported Army of Islam at the Syria peace talks in return for a separate delegation being invited with the Moscow-friendly opposition figures it has proposed, including Qadri Jamil, a former Syrian deputy prime minister.
If the compromise is reached, will consensus on the intra-Syrian peace process be possible at both national and international levels?
In an exclusive interview with valdaiclub.com, Nikolay Surkov, Assistant Professor with the Moscow-based MGIMO University Oriental Studies Department, addressed this and other issues.
“The fact that Russia is ready to negotiate with groups supported by Saudi Arabia, while the United States is ready to see al-Assad-friendly forces at the talks is very positive. It means that both sides aspire for compromise,” Surkov said.
However, it is too early to discuss any clear prospects: the gap between the sides’ positions is too hard to bridge, and the process of talks will take at least another six months.
“Most importantly, the issue of Bashar al-Assad’s fate is not resolved. It must be understood that a grand deal is being hammered out to help all the parties and countries involved leave this crisis without losing face,” Surkov believes.
It is obvious that the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Russia are all interested in reaching settlement in Syria. In addition, external players are believed to be looking for a soon solution on Syria to start working on Libya. This motive is present, even if implicitly, Surkov believes.
Since all parties are interested in finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, the question now is the terms of settlement. “As usual in the Middle East, it is one thing to strike a deal, and quite another to implement it. It may be smooth on paper, but some local groups or individual warlords can change their mind and quit the game at the last moment. So far, it is very hard to speak what situation in Syria could look like in a year or two,” he said.
When asked about the Financial Times’s claim that Moscow asked Bashar al-Assad to step down, the scholar said Russia was quite unequivocal on that. “I wouldn’t believe any claims that Moscow demanded al-Assad’s immediate resignation. All of Moscow’s actual statements indicate that a certain compromise must be worked out to respect interests of all parties. There will be no settlement, if such a format is not found,” the expert believes.
According to Surkov, there are two acceptable scenarios: either al-Assad resigns before the next presidential election and does not run for presidency or he quits after the election.
“It would be totally unreasonable to change the leader now, when the Syrian army is on the offensive and situation on the frontline is unstable,” the expert concluded.