DAMASCUS – Moscow will not insist on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power, a Russian official said on Tuesday.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharov told reporters in Moscow: “It was absolutely not crucial that Assad remained in control in the future.”
Zakharov’s statement comes amid increasing Russian military support to the Assad regime in Syria.
“What we did say is a regime change in Syria could become a local or even regional catastrophe,” she said. “Only the Syrian people can decide the president’s fate.”
Also on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his government’s goal in Syria is “to rebuff terrorists”.
“We are ready to cooperate with all forces who are countering terrorism, regardless of their religious denominations. And we are doing this work rather intensively,” he said at a meeting with representatives from religious and public organizations of Russia’s North Caucasian Republic of Dagestan.
Russia started airstrikes against opposition groups on September 30 at Assad’s request, conducting 1,631 sorties, hitting 2084 targets since then.
On October 20, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Moscow for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which they reportedly discussed their joint military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria. Assad’s visit to Moscow was his first time to leave his country since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011.
Reporting by: Laila Majdalawi
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