By Ibrahim Hamidi
Sources told al-Hayat Sunday that Moscow is studying a Syrian suggestion which includes the formation of an "expanded national government" to prepare for presidential elections before the end of President Bashar Assad's current presidential term in July. Assad and a representative of the opposition will each put forward a candidate, according to the current constitution.
Russian news agency Interfax reported that Assad told a delegation of Russian parliament members that he has no intention to step down and that "if we wanted to surrender, we would have surrendered right from the beginning".
The sources told al-Hayat that there is still disagreement between Moscow and Washington, in regards to the expectations from Geneva II. The Americans insist on the priority of forming a transitional body with full executive powers (as US Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Wendy Sherman and ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told Russian deputy foreign minister Michael Bogdanov in their meeting in Moscow last week), while Russians insist on "fighting terrorism".
But the sources added that Western countries still talk about an understanding with the Russian side on the interpretation of Geneva I, and that this was shown in the invitation message of Geneva II. US officials have suggested to Russia the names of some Syrian figures to be part of the transitional body. They also tried to put forward a "practical road map" for each of the Geneva I terms, including the details of the transitional body and the military council and their mutual relationship.
At the same time, opposition forces said that the Coalition is forming its delegation to attend Geneva II, and the political commission wants the negotiations to focus on forming a transitional body "without falling into the trap of details" related to cease-fire agreements and lists of detainees.
The sources added that opposition's delegation will ask — in the first round of negotiations between the government and the opposition in Geneva next Friday — to delay the negotiations for two weeks to give the Coalition a chance for greater preparation.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer