Bassem Tellawi/AP/File
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reacts during a speech at the Damascus University in this file photo.

Syria's VP calls for peaceful resolution to crisis – possibly without Assad

Mr. Sharaa says that both the regime and rebels will need to work together to resolve the conflict in Syria, since neither has exclusive rights to dictate the country's future.

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In an interview with a pro-Assad Lebanese newspaper, Syria's vice president called for a peaceful political resolution to the ongoing conflict in his country, and suggested that President Bashar al-Assad may not play a role in Syria's future – marking the highest-level acknowledgment yet from the Syrian government that a victory for the Assad regime looks increasingly unlikely.

Farouk al-Sharaa, current vice president of Syria and a long-serving member of the Assad family's regime, said in an interview with the Beirut-based Al Akhbar newspaper that “With every passing day, the solution [to the Syrian conflict] gets further away, militarily, and politically.” Noticeably omitting the political survival of President Assad, Mr. Sharaa says that “We are not in a battle for the survival of an individual or a regime.”

In an indirect, verbose fashion, Sharaa seems to demarcate a divided mind-set within the Syrian government, with Assad seeking a decisive military resolution to the conflict, while others, like Sharaa, push for a political solution.

Sharaa tells Al-Akhbar that "If anyone has the chance to meet Mister President, he would hear from him that this is a long struggle, a big conspiracy with many actors (terrorists, rabble, smugglers). He does not hide his desire for a military solution that achieves a decisive victory, and only then would the political dialogue be actually possible."

But, he adds, "Many in the [Baath] party, the [National Progressive Front, a coalition of non-Baath, pro-Assad parties], and the military forces have been convinced from the onset of the crisis that there is no alternative to a political solution and that there is no turning back."

Sharaa says that neither the regime nor the rebels have an exclusive right to dictate Syria's future, and that both sides will need to work together to resolve the conflict.

The opposition with its different factions, civilian, armed, or ones with external ties, cannot claim to be the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian People, just as the current rule with its ideological army and its confrontation parties lead by the Baath, with its years of experience and rooted bureaucracy, cannot achieve change and progress alone without new partners who can contribute to maintaining the fabric of the homeland, the integrity of its territory, and its regional sovereignty.

CNN notes that Sharaa has been floated as a possible interim leader of a post-Assad government, under a plan put forward by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in October. Mr. Davutoglu, explaining his reasoning to the Turkish Anadolu Agency, said that Sharaa has "a reasonable and conscientious approach," and "was not a part of recent events and did not partake in the massacres. And perhaps there is no one that knows the system better than Farouq al-Sharaa."

CNN adds that Sharaa has significant clout within Syria's government, having first been appointed to be foreign minister by Assad's father, Hafez. But Sharaa, who has been rumored to have defected several times, is also a Sunni, possibly granting him better standing among the largely Sunni rebels than his peers within Assad's primarily Shiite-aligned Alawite government.

Turkey has also reportedly offered a new post-Assad plan to Russia, which has been a staunch supporter of the Assad regime during the crisis. Agence France-Presse reports that, according to Turkish newspaper Radikal, the proposal would see Assad step down in early 2013 to be replaced by an interim government led by the opposition National Coalition. Radikal writes that earlier this month the plan was discussed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin, who called it a "creative formula." Though the two men did not come to an agreement on the plan – Turkey has been fiercely critical of Assad and backs an end to his regime – Mr. Putin did note that the Russians were not "inveterate defenders" of Assad.

AFP also reports that another staunch Assad ally, Iran, has put forth further details on its own plan to end the conflict. The six-point plan calls for an end to the violence under the supervision of the United Nations, followed by an end to foreign sanctions and formation of a transitional government. The plan also says that political prisoners should be released and impartial trials should be held for those jailed for crimes. Opposition groups have routinely rejected Iranian involvement in resolution of the Syrian crisis, due to Iran's unwavering military support for the Assad regime.

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