EU’s Syria Plan B: Assad stays, and Brussels pays for it – Times
The EU is reportedly planning to offer Damascus financial aid in exchange for allowing rebel forces stay in power in some regions of Syria. Brussels is no longer insisting on the retirement of Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to the Times.
The new proposals from the EU were voiced by its foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, at a meeting with opposition leaders two weeks ago, the British newspaper reported. They reflect developments on the ground, as the Syrian Army has scored several victories and is about to take complete control over Aleppo.
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad © SANA / Reuters
“What Mogherini wanted to do was present an EU plan – this is how to solve the conflict,” a source close to the western-backed Syrian opposition told the newspaper “There’s a transition, but the details are vague. In return, if all sides agree and everyone does what the EU says, there’s a huge pot of money.”
“Political transition” is a term used by all foreign stakeholders in the Syrian conflict to describe an end to hostilities and the forming of a new system of governance in the country, though various parties have vastly different views on what that transition would look like.
The rebels have for years insisted that the transition must include the ousting of Bashar Assad, while their western backers have repeated the mantra “Assad must go.” But the latest European plan no longer mentions the president’s future, the report said.
Brussels now consents to Assad remaining head of the Syrian government, but wants a “devolution of power to Syria’s provinces, which would allow for ‘moderate rebel’ forces to be integrated into local security forces.”
The solution is not unlike what Russia proposed for Ukraine’s civil conflict – a diminished role of the central government with regions, including those currently controlled by rebels, given greater financial and cultural autonomy.
The EU is willing to offer financial aid to both the Syrian government and the rebels to sweeten the deal, the Times said. The report suggested that paying Damascus is preferable to dealing with the continued exodus of Syrian refugees to the EU, which is “contributing to electoral chaos across the continent” and “destroying Europe’s political fabric.”
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