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Cairo meet to consider ‘2 years more of Assad, then elections’

Members of Syria's opposition are due to meet in Cairo in April to discuss resolving the Syrian conflict through political means
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri (R) meets with former Syrian National Coalition President Hadi al-Bahra (AFP)

Syria’s opposition is expected to meet in Cairo in April to discuss a proposal for allowing President Bashar al-Assad to stay in power for two more years.

Bassam al-Malik, an opposition figure, said on Sunday that the two years would be followed by presidential elections in light of the proposal under discussion during the meeting. According to Haitham Manaa, another member of the fractured Syrian opposition coalition, the Cairo meeting will likely take place on 23-25 April.

The opposition is expected to discuss the drafting of an interim constitution to regulate practices during this transitional period. 

The opposition announcement came shortly before US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States will have to negotiate with Assad to end the civil war. 

"Well, we have to negotiate in the end. We've always been willing to negotiate in the context of the Geneva I process," Kerry said in an interview carried out on Saturday and aired on Sunday. 

He stressed Washington was working hard to "re-ignite" efforts to find a political solution to end the war.

The Syrian opposition would likely head to Moscow after Cairo for a meeting on the grounds of putting an end to the Syrian crisis, Malik added, referring to the joint Egyptian-Russian efforts to bring about a peaceful settlement to the Syrian crisis. 

A few days before that conference, Cairo held its first three-day meeting for Syrian opposition members on 22 January. The Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs invited around 30 opposition figures in order to reach “a consensus over [formulating] a political vision that is isolated from any pressures and influences”.

The invitation came after some Syrian opposition groups rejected a call from Moscow to attend the talks in the Russian capital with representatives of the Syrian government, aggravating the divisions within Syria’s opposition, although 30 opposition representatives did attend the talks. Moscow is a firm Assad ally, and Russian-led peace efforts have proven controversial. 

The meeting discussed diplomatic means of resolving the Syrian conflict but notably absent from the dialogue was the explicit demands for Assad’s removal in addition to the replacement of the government’s institutions, which were initially at the core of the opposition’s demands.

The main Syrian opposition coalition has not clarified whether it would attend the meeting in Cairo in April.

Sources within the coalition, however, said that some coalition leaders would attend the meeting on an individual basis even if the coalition declined to attend.

More than 200,000 have been killed and millions of others displaced both internally and externally by the violence in Syria.