MOSCOW, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Russia will urge Syria to draft a new constitution and hold an early presidential election in upcoming peace talks, but will not call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
A draft plan by the Kremlin, titled "Approach To The Settlement of The Syrian Crisis," states "the president of Syria will not chair the constitutional commission," instead calling for "a candidate agreed by all sides" to lead the creation of the constitution. Assad is not mentioned again in the document.
Western powers and the Gulf states have long-demanded Assad step down before a peace process in Syria can move forward to end a nearly five-year civil war. Moscow's plan also calls for Staffan de Mistura, the UN's special envoy for Syria, to launch a political process between Assad's government and "a united delegation of the opposition groups" to set up a transitional government until elections.
The document says the constitutional reform process and transitional period could take up to 18 months before elections are held.
Russia seemingly distanced itself from Assad earlier this month when a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said it was not crucial for him to remain in power.
Vladimir Safronkov, Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, said he regretted the document leaked to news organizations but defended the document and encouraged suggestions.
"It's our vision, it's our proposal," Safronkov said, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. "Of course, we are receptive for proposals from the other side. It's just Russia's contribution, how we launch a political process ... to make parties work together -- government and opposition."
Talks will begin on Saturday in Vienna about how to end Syria's long-running civil war. Kremlin's document also says certain Syrian rebel groups should take park in the Vienna talks.