PHOTO: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, October 20, 2015

On Wednesday afternoon, I spoke with Monocle 24’s The Briefing about the latest claimed Russian proposal for a political settlement of the crisis in Syria.

A draft document — summarized by Reuters but denied by the Russian Foreign Ministry — proposes an 18-month period for constitutional reform and then Presidential elections. The draft does not say whether or not President Assad will be allowed to stand for another term in office.

Listen from 15:20

Under the Russian plan — if it is authentic — Assad can stay in power for two years and then, after two years, he can stand in an election which may be far from free and fair to remain indefinitely.

There’s no way Saudi Arabia will accept this. Unnamed Western diplomats have already said they are not going to accept. So I think the Russians are playing at PR and trying to press the West rather than making a legitimate effort to end the conflict.