Bashar al-Assad vows to serve out his term as Syria's president
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told a top United Nations envoy that he won't quit before his term ends in 2014, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
"It's impossible to change his position," Lavrov said at a joint press conference after talks in Moscow yesterday with UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, who met Assad in Damascus on December 24.
Forces loyal to Assad yesterday seized a district of the strategic central city of Homs after a fierce assault that a British-based watchdog said had sparked a humanitarian crisis.
Brahimi bluntly stated that Syria was facing a choice between "hell or the political process", while urging the world to work tirelessly to bring about a diplomatic solution. Lavrov said both he and Brahimi agreed there was a chance for a solution to the conflict as long as world powers put pressure on the warring parties to accept a mediated end to violence that has claimed more than 45,000 lives.
Moscow has been under intense pressure to urge the Syrian leadership to accept a face-saving agreement that would see the rebels assume gradual command. Russia on Friday called on Assad to make efforts towards a political settlement by holding dialogue with the opposition on all possible options. The US and Russia are now working together in a bid to negotiate a peaceful outcome to the uprising that started in March 2011.
"When the opposition says that only Assad's departure would allow for the start of talks on the fate of the country - we think that's incorrect," Lavrov said. Maintaining that position is fuelling the death toll, he said.
Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg