MOSCOW (Reuters) - Syria could become a federal state if that model works in the country, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a news briefing on Monday.
A fragile cessation of hostilities, drawn up jointly by the United States and Russia, has led to a dramatic reduction of violence in Syria over the weekend, though rebels are accusing the government of numerous violations including air strikes.
The United Nations’ Syria mediator, Staffan de Mistura, has said he intends to reconvene peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition on March 7, provided the halt in fighting largely holds and allows for greater delivery of humanitarian relief.
“If as a result of talks, consultations and discussions on Syria’s future state order ... they come to an opinion that namely this (federal) model will work to serve the task of preserving Syria as a united, secular, independent and sovereign nation, then who will object to this?” Ryabkov said.
After five years of civil war that has killed 250,000 people and driven some 11 million from their homes, Syria’s territory is already effectively split between various parties, including the government and its allies, Western-backed Kurds, opposition groups and Islamic State militants.
In a September interview, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did not rule out the idea of federalism, but said any change must be a result of dialogue among Syrians and a referendum to introduce the necessary changes to the constitution.
“From our side, when the Syrian people are ready to move in a certain direction, we will naturally agree to this,” he said at the time.
Ryabkov said Moscow would also not object to “any other model for Syria, provided it is not written to someone’s dictation somewhere 1,000 kilometres away from Syria”.
Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Jack Stubbs and Gareth Jones