Russia won't push Assad to stand down


Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied any plans to offer asylum to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after his government falls.
Assad (R) speaks with Lavrov during their meeting at the presidential palace in Damascus, on February 7, 2012.


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Russia, Syria's most important ally, said it will not have any role in pushing President Bashar al-Assad to stand down.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that his country would not act as a mediator in the stalemate and that Assad would not bow to international pressure, reports Reuters. 

"Listen, no one is going to win this war," he told reporters aboard a government plane returning to Moscow after a meeting between Russia and the European Union in Brussels. "Assad is not going anywhere, no matter what anyone says, be it China or Russia."

Lavrov told the New York Times that several countries were offering asylum to Assad as an incentive to step down but that Russia would not be one of them. 

“Several countries in the region have turned to us and suggested ‘Tell Assad we are ready to fix him up,’ ” Lavrov said. “And we answered ‘What do we have to do with it? If you have such plans, approach him directly.’ ”

It's the latest sign that Russia is backing away from its staunch support of the Syrian president during the 21-month long conflict. 

Earlier this month, Russia's Middle East envoy said for the first time that the rebels could defeat Assad and that Moscow was preparing for the possible evacuation of its citizens from Syria. 

Russia may be preparing for a post-Assad Syria as the rebels gain more ground in the war. According to the New York Times, the rebels are pushing aggressively toward government strongholds near the capital of Damascus and the central Syrian city of Hama.

Yesterday in Brussels, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged talks between the two sides in the conflict and said that Russia wanted to avoid "chaos" if Assad is overthrown, reports Bloomberg.

“We aren’t advocates for the current leadership,” Putin said. “We will work to ensure order in Syria and a democratic system based on the popular will of the Syrian people.”