The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is approaching collapse and should immediately take steps to begin talks on a political transition, Nato head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.
“I think the regime in Damascus is approaching collapse ... it is only a question of time,” Rasmussen said, adding that Assad should “initiate a process to accomodate the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”
Earlier on Thursday, a top Russian diplomat said that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is losing “more and more” control of Syria after 21 months of conflict and an opposition victory cannot be ruled out.
“As for preparing for victory by the opposition, this, of course, cannot be excluded,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency.
“You need to look the facts in the eyes – the government regime is losing more and more control over a large part of the country’s territory,” he said.
The RIA Novosti news agency also quoted Bogdanov as saying that the recent recognition of the opposition Syrian National Coalition by the United States – following similar moves by other states – had only emboldened the opposition.
“They (the rebels) are saying that victory is not far away, ‘let’s take Aleppo, let’s take Damascus’,” he said.
“The recognition of the opposition, the training with rebel fighters and the weapons from abroad are now only inspiring the opposition.”
Bogdanov said that despite the changing situation on the ground, Moscow would still insist on the fulfilment of an agreement between world powers in Geneva earlier this year to solve the Syria crisis through talks involving all the parties.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Russia was surprised by US President Barack Obama’s recognition of the Syrian opposition and Washington was now betting on an armed victory by rebels in the conflict.
Russia has so far defiantly refused to turn against the regime of Assad despite the conflict that according to rights groups has killed 42,000 people since March last year.
The National Coalition is a bloc of opposition groups led by moderate cleric Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib formed after talks in Qatar in November as part of a Western-backed push to make the opposition a more cohesive force.
Meanwhile Russia’s top general reaffirmed that Moscow was against any military solution to the conflict.
“Our firm belief is that the solving the Syria conflict is only possible by both sides without interference from a third side and above all without the use of military force,” the Russian military’s chief of staff Valery Gerasimov said, quoted by RIA Novosti.