President Bashar Assad is willing to run in an early presidential election, hold parliamentary elections and discuss constitutional changes, but only after the defeat of “terrorist” groups, Russian lawmakers said after meeting with the Syrian leader on Sunday. The meeting came as Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were discussing new ideas for a political transition in Syria to end the nearly
five-year war, which has killed 250,000 people and displaced half the country’s population. The Western-backed Syrian opposition and other insurgent groups have refused to back any plan that does not include Assad’s exit from power, and were unlikely to view any elections held by his government as legitimate. The Syrian government views the entire armed opposition as “terrorists” and has been waging an offensive on several fronts in recent weeks backed by Russian airstrikes.