Reports on this weekend’s talks on Syria suggest Russia is planning to propose an 18-month period of reform in the nation, leading to free elections. This encompasses the long-standing Russian goal of uniting the existing Assad government, a close ally, with secular rebel faction to fight ISIS.
The proposal hasn’t even formally been made yet, but it’s already facing condemnation from multiple factions involved in the Vienna talks, particularly Saudi Arabia and its allies, who insist that any deal for free elections must explicitly exclude the participation of leaders of the current government.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir insisted that under all circumstances, Assad has to be removed from power, and that if he doesn’t voluntarily resign he will be removed “in a military manner.”
British officials similarly downplayed the Russian proposal, saying it isn’t “central” to the discussions in Vienna, while various rebel factions similarly rejected the idea of free elections if Assad was allowed to participate.