Russia vows to call a conference of Syrians - Deputy FM

Reuters / Youssef Boudlal
Russia's Foreign Ministry is advocating for the creation of a transitional government that would oversee the task of organizing a transparent presidential election.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who held meetings in Paris with French diplomats and representatives of the Syrian opposition, told RT that the warring parties must immediately adhere to a ceasefire and begin implementing Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

“The solution (to resolving the crisis) lies in promoting talks not only between various opposition groups, but also between the opposition and the Syrian government as advised by the Kofi Annan plan,” he said. “Annan’s plan says the opposition must agree to hold talks with the government, and we believe that is the right direction out of the conflict.”

When asked by RT if he succeeded in convincing the French side and the Syrian opposition to agree with these goals, Bogdanov said he was optimistic: “The government in Damascus accepted the initiatives despite certain doubts that were quite understandable. … The government even went so far as to produce a list of officials ready to enter into negotiations with the opposition under no set preconditions and with an open agenda.”

Each party at the negotiations will have the right to add issues to the agenda and expect a fair debate, he said, adding that despite Kofi Annan stepping down from his position as Special Envoy to Syria, “his plan remains viable.”

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad would not cling to power if he were to lose in the presidential election, Bogdanov added.

"Assad told us that, if the people no longer want to see him in power and elect another leader during presidential elections, he will leave office," the Russian diplomat told French media in a separate interview.

Russia has proposed to organize a representative conference of Syrians. Such a conference would bring together representatives of the opposition and the regime, together with a diverse group of negotiators from the Muslim, Christian, Alawite and Druze communities. This strategy would redirect the crisis onto the path of non-violence and outline the contours of a new Syria.

Bogdanov fears that the ongoing conflict in Syria could continue for a long time, saying the Assad government is still strong and enjoys solid public support, which is largely based on fear of the unknown.

“This support is not motivated by love of the Syrians to Assad, but rather the fear of those who would succeed him,” he said. “Indeed, there is a risk of the Somaliazation of Syria.”

Meanwhile, Russia does not rule out the possibility that the Syrian opposition may be able to overthrow the Syrian government, while stressing that such a development will not stop the civil war.

"The parties will just swap places geographically," he told French reporters.

According to the minister's estimation, “no party is currently able to maintain its positions, which drags out the conflict."

When asked if he knew of a Syrian figure who could lead a transitional government, Bogdanov argued that this was a question better answered by the Syrian people.

“Neither Russia, nor the US, nor France can impose a leader on the Syrian people,” he told RT. “And we would assist such an election taking place as soon as possible in order to let the Syrian people freely choose their country’s leadership.”

Robert Bridge, RT