Assad to remain in power until March 2017, US documents show Timeline sets early next year as earliest for Syrian president to step down, according to AP

Syrian President Assad

Syrian President Assad

WASHINGTON (AA) – The Obama administration foresees Syrian President Bashar Assad’s stepping down sometime in March 2017, according to a report published Wednesday by The Associated Press.

A timeline sets an unspecified date next March as the earliest for Assad to relinquish power and his for his team to depart, the news outlet reported, sourcing documents for U.S. officials.

“Asad relinquishes presidency; inner circle departs,” the U.S. timeline said, according to the AP, using the American government’s spelling for the Syrian leader.

Based on a U.N.-endorsed plan laid out at an international conference in Vienna in November, political transition in Syria would include presidential and parliamentary elections next August, the report said.

Syria’s new political process will start next month. In its first step, the government and opposition will begin peace talks in Geneva on Jan. 25, a date set by Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy for Syria.

During the transition period, the country will be run by a transitional governing body that would be formed after a security committee is created in April. It would consist of Assad representatives and opposition members, the document said.

In May, the Syrian parliament would be disbanded, according to the timeline.

“The [UN] Security Council would recognize the new transitional authority and lay out the transition’s next steps,” said AP.

“These include major political reforms, the nomination of an interim legislature and an international donors’ conference to fund Syria’s transition and reconstruction.”

Between May and November of this year, the sides will draft a new constitution. Syrians would then vote on the document in a popular referendum next January, according to the timeline. Two months later, Assad is expected to step down.

Syria’s new government would assume full powers from the transitional body after parliamentary and presidential elections in August.

The Syria conflict, which will enter its sixth year in early 2016, has left more than 250,000 people dead and turned the country into the world’s largest source of refugees and displaced persons, according to the UN.

Nearly 8 million victims are internally displaced and more than 4 million have fled to nearby countries since the conflict started.

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