Diplomats: Major Powers Talk over Possibility of Syria Federal Division

Diplomats: Major Powers Talk over Possibility of Syria Federal Division
Fri Mar 11, 2016 12:48:04

Key Powers have discussed a federal division of Syria as a possible option to end five years of foreign-backed militancy in the Arab state, UN diplomats say.

A Security Council diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said some Western powers and Russia are looking into Syria’s federal division would keep country’s unity as one state but give autonomy to regional authorities.

The source further said the idea had been passed on to UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

“While insisting on retaining the territorial integrity of Syria, so continuing to keep it as a single country, of course there are all sorts of different models of a federal structure that would, in some models, have a very, very loose center and a lot of autonomy for different regions,” the diplomat added.

The remarks were confirmed by another UN Security Council diplomat.

This comes as talks between Syrian government delegates and the so-called opposition group, known as the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), are set to resume in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 14.

The UN-brokered peace negotiations collapsed early in February after the Saudi-backed opposition left the talks amid the Syrian army’s Russian-backed gains against militants on several fronts.

Both sides have not yet confirmed their participation in the fresh round of talks. Meanwhile, an agreement on the cessation of hostilities, brokered by Russia and the US, has taken effect in Syria since February 27.

On Thursday, de Mistura said in an interview with Al Jazeera that “all Syrians have rejected division (of Syria) and federalism can be discussed at the negotiations.”

On February 29, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkovsuggested that a federal state may be a suitable government model to preserve Syria’s unity and sovereignty.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has also said in an interview last September that any change must be approved by the Arab nation, adding, “From our side, when the Syrian people are ready to move in a certain direction, we will naturally agree to this.”

Riad Hijab, head of the Saudi-backed HNC, said earlier this week that the opposition will not accept federalism, adding, “We have agreed we will expand non-central government in a future Syria, but not any kind of federalism or division.”

The crisis in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has so far claimed the lives of over 470,000, according to some reports.

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