From Reuters:

Syrian opposition figures and Gulf commentators dismissed on Wednesday a Russian draft proposal for a process to solve the Syrian crisis, saying Moscow’s aim was to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power and marginalize dissenting voices.

A draft document obtained by Reuters on Tuesday showed Moscow would like Damascus and unspecified opposition groups to agree on launching a constitutional reform process of up to 18 months, followed by early presidential elections.

Russia, which with Iran has been Assad’s top ally during Syria’s nearly five-year conflict, has denied any document is being prepared before a second round of international peace talks in Vienna this week.

The text, obtained by Reuters, does not rule out Assad’s participation in early presidential elections, something his enemies say is impossible if there is to be peace.

“The Syrian people have never accepted the dictatorship of Assad and they will not accept that it is reintroduced or reformulated in another way,” said Monzer Akbik, member of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition.

“The Russians are now trying to play the game they have been playing since Geneva,” he told Reuters, referring to United Nations-led peace talks that collapsed in 2014.

Russia began airstrikes in Syria six weeks ago after insurgents edged closer to government-held areas vital to Assad. It has also stepped up its diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.

Hadi al-Bahra, a member of the coalition’s political committee, said the main problem was Assad and any political process needed to tackle this with assurances and…

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