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Fate Of Assad Causes Division Among Friends of Syria

Western nations have recently softened their rhetoric toward Assad in apparent acceptance of the president’s mandate to serve during a transitional period
Fate Of Assad Causes Division Among Friends of Syria

While much attention has been focused on Monday's summit between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, it is clear a gap has begun to widen within the so-called the Friends of Syria group as to the problematic issue of the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

While influential regional states which support the Syrian opposition insist on Assad’s departure, Western countries, namely the United States, have softened their rhetoric toward Assad in apparent acceptance of the president’s mandate for a limited period of time during a transitional stage.

The regional team, represented by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, stick to its position towards the departure of Assad, whose regime – in their eyes – has lost its legitimacy. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu explained that his country would accept any political solution approved by the Syrians as long as Assad has no role in it.

Turkish newspapers quoted Davutoglu as saying: "We are convinced that if Assad were to stay in power during the transitional period, no transition will happen. We believe that this situation will turn into a permanent de facto situation. Our conviction in this regard has not changed."

On the opposite side, British Prime Minister David Cameron told a UK Sky News correspondent that he was not ruling out that Assad could be part of a transfer of power, but “what he is very clear about is that Assad cannot be part of Syria’s future in the long run.”

Earlier, UK newspaper Sunday Telegraph reported that Cameron would be open to keeping Assad in power in the short-term while a unity government is formed in the country.

The new position adopted by the West began with the statements from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who said Assad must step down, but the timing of this step must be decided through negotiations.

France remained in an open position towards the two parties, where President Francois Hollande announced in New York Monday that France "talks with everyone and does not exclude anyone in pursuit of a political solution in Syria," but added, "Paris believes that the future of Syria cannot pass through [Bashar Assad].”

Brookings Institute researcher Charles Lister said that the Western proposal of giving up the immediate departure of Bashar Assad as part of any political solution in Syria ignores the fact that there are more than a 100,000 armed Syrians who have vowed to continue their fight against Assad until his downfall.

In an article entitled "The West is walking into the abyss on Syria" on the BBC, Lister said the recent political developments can lead to ignoring a simple fact: that Assad cannot and must not be a better option than the Islamic State.

The writer noted that the West bears a moral and political responsibility to reach a permanent solution in Syria, a solution that ensures peace in the country, and this means the participation of all the segments of Syrian society, including the armed opposition, in any possible solution.

Lister warned of the adoption of the Iranian-Russian view, which aims at maintaining the survival of Assad or the acceptance of the "de facto division" in Syria, which will prolong the duration of the conflict in the country, and strengthen the position of extremists around the globe.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer

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