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Russia divests itself from Syria's Assad

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 20th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that his nation's main concern in regards to Syria is the fate of the country -- and not that of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Putin, speaking at his annual press briefing in Moscow assured that any solution to the conflict in Syria must prevent the opposition and government forces just swapping roles and continuing to fight indefinitely.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "We are not concerned about the fate of Assad\'s regime. We understand what is going on there," Putin said.

\"We are worried about a different thing: what next? We simply don\'t want the current opposition, having become the authorities, to start fighting the people who are the current authorities and become the opposition - and [we don\'t want] this to go on forever.\"

Putin says that Russia is not seeking to prop up Assad. He stressed that Moscow was only seeking to avert a perpetual civil war.

"What is our position? Not to leave Assad\'s regime in power at any price, but to first [let the Syrians] agree among themselves how they should live next,\" Putin said.

\"Only then should we start looking at ways to change the existing order.\"

Russia\'s calls for dialogue are intended to avert \"an endless civil war\" between the armed rebels and government forces that still control most of the capital Damascus.

\"We want to avoid [Syrian] disintegration,\" Putin said.

The Russian president's comments came less than a week after Russia\'s chief Middle East envoy said it appeared that Assad would not be able to fend off the rebels for very much longer.

The foreign ministry later denied an official shift in Russia\'s position toward Assad and noted that Moscow still recognized the Assad regime.

Russia remains one of Syria's far too few allies. Russia has previously shielded Assad from U.N. sanctions aimed at punishing him for his use of heavy force against rebels.

The changing tone in Moscow reflects frustration on the part of the Kremlin, one analyst says.
 
"Obviously the Kremlin tried to assert its influence recently to compel Assad make some compromises in his unwavering stand based on violence and military pressure and even start some negotiations and make some other steps toward reconciliation, but to no avail," Andrei Kortunov, president of New Eurasia Foundation, a Moscow-based think tank said.

"That certainly rubbed Putin the wrong way, and the Russian leader is having a hard time hiding his irritation with Assad," Korutnov said.



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