Russia circulates Syrian peace plan at UN

Russia is circulating a draft plan to end the nearly five-year civil war in Syria that calls for a new constitution but does not explicitly demand that President Bashar al-Assad leave power.

The draft obtained by multiple news outlets gives up to 18 months for a new constitutional commission to write the constitution, followed by a popular referendum to approve it. Then, presidential elections will be held.

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"It's our vision — it's our proposal,” Russia’s deputy United Nations ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told The Associated Press.

The document stays largely silent on the thorny issue of whether Assad should leave power, however, as many rebel groups have demanded. Instead, the draft simply prevents him from chairing the new constitutional commission.

According to Reuters, Syrian rebel groups have already rejected the proposal, claiming that it would merely “reformulate” Assad’s fledgling grip on power.

The leaked Russian plan also steers clear of specifics on how to reach peace, instead calling for the Syrian government and “a united delegation of the opposition groups” to sit down in talks.

The draft comes ahead of international peace negotiations in Vienna this Saturday. The United States, Russia and countries across the globe will take part in those talks, though neither Assad’s government nor Syrian rebels will participate.

Russia is a close ally of Assad and has increasingly injected itself into the bloody Syrian conflict in order to prop him up.

President Obama has for years called for Assad to leave power, claiming that no peace can be sustainable as long as he remains in office. Yet Russian leaders refer to all rebel groups as “terrorists” in league with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  

American officials say that roughly 90 percent of Russia's strikes in Syria have targeted more moderate Syrian rebels, including those backed by the CIA.

In addition to the constitutional questions, Russia’s draft peace plan calls for the U.N. to list ISIS and other groups as terrorist organizations. It also says that the U.N. should “exclude” operations against ISIS “and other terrorist groups” from a Syrian ceasefire.