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President Bashar Al-Assad of #Syria to remain in power until March 2017, US docs show

By Tajuddin
Jan 7th, 2016
President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria

President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria

Washington ( Anadolu Agency + DIPLOMAT.SO) – The Obama administration foresees Syrian President Bashar Assad’s stepping down sometime in March 2017, according to a report published Wednesday by The Associated Press.

A timeline sets an unspecified date next March as the earliest for Assad to relinquish power and his for his team to depart, the news outlet reported, sourcing documents for U.S. officials.

“Asad relinquishes presidency; inner circle departs,” the U.S. timeline said, according to the AP, using the American government’s spelling for the Syrian leader.

Based on a UN-endorsed plan laid out at an international conference in Vienna in November, political transition in Syria would include presidential and parliamentary elections next August, the report said.

Syria’s new political process will start next month. In its first step, the government and opposition will begin peace talks in Geneva on Jan. 25, a date set by Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy for Syria.

During the transition period, the country will be run by a transitional governing body that would be formed after a security committee is created in April. It would consist of Assad representatives and opposition members, the document said.

In May, the Syrian parliament would be disbanded, according to the timeline.

“The [UN] Security Council would recognize the new transitional authority and lay out the transition’s next steps,” said AP.

“These include major political reforms, the nomination of an interim legislature and an international donors’ conference to fund Syria’s transition and reconstruction.”

Between May and November of this year, the sides will draft a new constitution. Syrians would then vote on the document in a popular referendum next January, according to the timeline. Two months later, Assad is expected to step down.

Syria’s new government would assume full powers from the transitional body after parliamentary and presidential elections in August.

A State Department spokesman later refused to confirm that the U.S. wanted Assad out by next March.

The document obtained by the AP was only “a preliminary” and “a working level” document that laid out a potential way toward a political process in Syria, said John Kirby.

“Nobody can today predict with perfect certainty and specificity what month of what year all these things are going to happen,” he said, but acknowledged standing differences of opinion in the international community about how long Assad should stay; whether he should stay or not; or what role he would play in a political transition.

“I don’t know the answer to what that’s going to look like right now,” he said.

The Syria conflict, which will enter its sixth year in early 2016, has left more than 250,000 people dead and turned the country into the world’s largest source of refugees and displaced persons, according to the UN.

Nearly 8 million victims are internally displaced and more than 4 million have fled to nearby countries since the conflict started.

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