June 5, 2012
Russia said Tuesday it was prepared to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad leave power in a negotiated solution to 15 months of bloodshed that has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said a day after meeting mediator Kofi Annan in Geneva that Russia would back any peaceful settlement to the crisis as long as it did not involve the use of outside force.
“We have never said or insisted that Assad necessarily had to remain in power at the end of the political process,” Gatilov told the ITAR-TASS news agency in Switzerland.
“This issue has to be settled by the Syrians themselves.”
The comments represent one of Russia’s most explicit declarations of a position first signalled by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a day after a February 7 meeting in Damascus with Assad.