President Bashar al-Assad has rejected a transitional body with executive powers as demanded by the opposition, instead calling for a national unity government. Assad's fate remains a major sticking point in peace talks.
In an interview with Russian state media RIA Novosti published Wednesday, Assad said a national unity government composed of the "opposition, independent, the current government and others" must be formed - a position that puts him at odds with the opposition, which demands a transitional body with full executive powers.
UN-mediated talks between regime representatives and the opposition are deadlocked over Assad's fate, with the opposition demanding the president step down before a transitional government is formed.
The gridlock has prompted concern the opposition may walk away from peace talks started last month in Geneva, despite a steep reduction in fighting in the country due to a ceasefire.
An international roadmap drawn up by the United States and Russia that paved the way for peace talks calls for a transitional government and a draft constitution by August, followed by UN monitored elections.
Transitional body unconstitutional
Assad said a political transition means a transition to a new constitution, a preliminary draft of which he said could be drawn up within a few weeks.
"Thus, the transition period must be under the current constitution, and we will move on to the new constitution after the Syrian people vote for it," Assad said.
"Neither the Syrian constitution, nor the constitution of any other country in the world includes anything that is called a transitional body of power. It's illogical and unconstitutional," he added.
The High Negotiations Committee, the body representing the opposition at the peace talks, immediately slammed Assad's suggestion.
"The government, whether it's new or old, as long as it is in the presence of Bashar al-Assad, is not part of the political process," said George Sabra, a longtime figure in the Syrian opposition and negotiator for the High Negotiations Committee.
"What Bashar al-Assad is talking about has no relation to the political process," said Sabra.
No federalism in Syria
Assad also rejected the idea of Syria becoming a federal state, a position advocated by the Kurds but rejected by the opposition and UN envoy.
"From a sociological point of view, there must be components of society that may not be able to live with one another for there to be a federation," Assad said. "There is none of this in Syrian history."
"The majority of Kurds want to live in a united Syria, within the framework of centralized power in political terms, and not in a federal structure," he said.
Earlier this month the main Syrian Kurdish party, the Democratic Unity Party (PYD), who were not invited to talks in Geneva, declared a federal region in territories under their control. They have taken advantage of the Syrian conflict to carve out three autonomous regions in the north.
cw/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)