US denies Syria proposal, despite Putin's 'acceptance'

  • 18/06/2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin (AAP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (AAP)

There are no US proposals to include members of the Syrian opposition in the government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, a US official says, in a denial of comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"There is no such proposal," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that US policy on Assad's departure has not changed.

He noted the 2012 Geneva Communique calls for "a transitional governing body, formed by mutual consent, with full executive powers", a policy Washington argues means Assad must go because the opposition will never accept his staying.

Speaking in St Petersburg, Putin said on Friday he agreed with what he said were US proposals to incorporate parts of the opposition into the current Syrian government. Putin said Assad accepted there was a need for a political process.

"The US proposal is absolutely acceptable. We must think about the possibilities of incorporating representatives of the opposition into the active ruling structure," Putin said.

Assad sits at the top of the active ruling structure and it did not appear there was any resolution to the underlying US-Russian disagreement over whether he should stay or go.

For five years, the United States has argued that Assad has lost the legitimacy to lead Syria because of the suffering his forces have inflicted on Syrian civilians. Russian officials question who might succeed him and argue that chaos would be worse.

Putin's comments advance Russia's position on Syria and follow a statement by UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura, who warned earlier this month there would not be another round of peace talks until officials on all sides agreed on the parameters for a political transition deal ahead of an August 1 deadline.

"For example into the government. We must think what rights that government will have. But here we shouldn't go too far, we must act based on today's realities," added Putin.

Putin said the most important thing for Syria was not for Assad to retake every inch of territory as he has pledged (though Putin said territorial gains were also important) but for overall faith in the authorities to be restored.

Putin said it was inevitable Syria would collapse if things continued as they were, saying that would be the worst-case scenario.