Russia Syria plan calls for divided state

Syria would be divided into informal zones of regional power influence and Bashar al-Assad would remain president for at least a few years according to an outline deal between Russia, Turkey and Iran reached earlier this month.

Reuters reported today that such a deal would allow regional autonomy within a federal structure controlled by Assad’s Alawite sect.

Assad’s powers would be reduced but he would be allowed to stay until the next presidential election when he would quit in favor of a less polarizing Alawite candidate, Reuters cites several sources as saying.

If Russia gets its way, new peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition will begin in mid-January in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, a close Russian ally.

The talks would be distinct from intermittent UN-brokered negotiations and not initially involve the United States.

Foreign and defense ministers from Russia, Turkey and Iran met in Moscow on 20 December and set out the principles they thought any Syria deal should adhere to.

Reuters reports Russian sources as saying the first step is to get a nationwide ceasefire and then to get talks underway. The Gulf states would then get involved, followed by the US.

Iran, Assad’s staunchest backer, has provided militia fighters to help Assad, Russia has supplied air strikes, while Turkey has backed the anti-Assad rebels.