Syria: Russia forced to deny it discussed post Bashar al-Assad regime (TELEGRAPH UK) By Adrian Blomfield, Middle East Correspondent 06/16/12)
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Russia was forced to deny that it was close to major policy shift on
Friday after France alleged that the Kremlin had discussed a post-
Laurent Fabius, the new French foreign minister, claimed that
negotiations were under way to persuade Moscow to abandon its crucial
support for President Bashar al-Assad, suggesting that the only
sticking point was over who should succeed him.
"The Russians are not today attached to the person of Bashar al-
Assad," said Mr Fabius. "They clearly see he is a tyrant and a
murderer. But they are sensitive about who might take his place if
Assad is ousted. The discussion is about that."
Mr Fabius´s comments appeared to be part of a concerted diplomatic
effort to prise Russia apart from Mr Assad´s regime.
Faced with a sharp escalation of the Syrian conflict following two
recent civilian massacres in recent weeks, Western states have
visibly stepped up pressure on Moscow to convince it of the need for
But Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, curtly rebuffed
suggestions of a change of heart, denying that any negotiations with
the West about Mr Assad´s departure were under way.
"There were no such discussions and there could not be such
discussions," he said. "We do not get involved in overthrowing
regimes – neither through approval of unilateral actions by the UN
Security Council nor by any participation in any political plots."
Despite Moscow´s public protestations, Western states remain
convinced that Russia can be won round. Several officials said that
Russia would accept his departure if the Syrian people called for it,
prompting Hillary Clinton to dispatch a number of envoys to Moscow in
the hope of persuading it to back a new peace plan that would be
centred on Mr Assad´s resignation.
Desperate to maintain a vital strategic relationship with its most
important Arab ally, however, Russia has persistently vetoed Western
efforts to impose sanctions on the Assad regime and has been
instrumental in ensuring the Syrian president´s survival.
Amid heightened international urgency over how to respond to the
worsening crisis, the head of the UN observer team admitted that the
peace plan which established his mission was fast disintegrating.
"Violence over the past 10 days has been intensifying, again
willingly by both parties, with losses on both sides and at
significant risk to our observers," said Major-General Robert Mood.
"The escalating violence is now limiting our ability to observe,
verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue and stability
Clashes were reported across Syria yesterday as regime forces stepped
up an offensive to drive rebel forces out of their strongholds. (©
Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012. 06/16/12)
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