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Assad’s future remains apple of discord among parties to Syria’s crisis

October 08, 2015, 19:44 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Bashar Assad

Bashar Assad

© SANA via AP

MOSCOW, October 8. /TASS/. The large-scale offensive which Syria’s government army launched on Thursday against the positions of Islamic State militants with Russia’s air support has brought to the forefront the issue of Syria’s future political system after the victory over the IS has been achieved, polled experts have told TASS. In the meantime, the future of Bashar Assad as the head of state remains an apple of discord among the countries and parties involved in settling the Syrian crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week said the struggle with terrorism must proceed alongside the political process in Syria. "The Syrian president agrees with this. He is prepared to call early parliamentary elections, establish contact with the sound opposition and invite it into running the nation," Putin said. For the first time ever since the beginning of the Syrian crisis Assad told Iranian television in an interview on Monday he would be prepared to step down, if that decision of his would settle the crisis. But it is entirely up to the people to decide who would be their next president, Assad said. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel insists Syria should start a political process with representatives of the Syrian opposition and the government in Damascus taking part. And President Francois Hollande, of France, too, has pointed to the usefulness of pooling efforts by the authorities in Damascus and the Syrian opposition in the struggle against the Islamic State.

The president of the Religion and Politics Institute, Aleksandr Ignatenko, believes that "the shift of Western politicians’ emphasis from the demand for Assad’s resignation to the need for starting a political process in Syria is a good sign ruling out a solution from the position of strength."

"A political process implies the establishment of institutions of power, which cannot be done in the context of the civil war in Syria and the struggle against the Islamic State. It will be wrong to place the cart before the horse. But while the struggle against the radical Islamists continues, it might be possible for the ruling coalition and the opposition to meet for talks, conferences and round-table discussions, in other words, to continue the Geneva process with the aim to find a way out of the dead end. The probability is high the Syrian people will elect a different man, not Bashar Assad, as their president," Aleksandr Ignatenko said.

The leading research fellow at the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Boris Dolgov, believes that Assad’s statement he would agree to resign, if that helped settle the crisis in Syria was nothing but "rhetoric." "Who is the man Assad will be able to hand power over to? There is no worthy personality on Syria’s political landscape at the moment. As for the Syrian opposition abroad, whose delegation we welcomed at our institute on five or six occasions, it represents nobody but itself and has no forces inside the country to rely on," Dolgov told TASS.

"Since the Syrian crisis began I’ve been to Damascus twice, and I have first-hand experience that more than one-third of the country’s population is connected with Assad’s regime and supports him in his struggle against the Islamic State. He is the sole leader that unites IS opponents. The Syrian people pin their hopes for a peaceful future on this man," Dolgov said.

Turkey’s ambassador to Russia Umit Yardim whose country is a member of NATO, strongly disagrees with this. "The Assad regime has no future and the Syrian crisis will remain insoluble without a diplomatic solution of the Assad problem," Yardim told TASS at a reception at his residence in Moscow on Thursday.

He claims the influx of Syrian refugees into Turkey is a result of Assad’s rule. "Turkey has had to accommodate 2.5 million Syrian refugees, including one million children. As many as 350,000 children from refugee families need education in Turkey and 250,000 Syrians are staying at refugee camps. Turkey has to spend $7-8 billion a year to support all those who have fled from the civil war in Syria."

Yardim sees a solution of the "Assad problem" in drafting road maps for establishing a new system of government in Syria after victory over the Islamic State.

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