Russia says it won’t play role in ousting Assad

The New York Times reports: The foreign minister of Russia, which is among Syria’s most reliable allies, said Saturday that several countries were offering asylum to President Bashar al-Assad to get him to leave Syria, but that Moscow would not mediate on their behalf, according to Russian news services.

“Some countries in the region have turned to us and suggested, ‘Tell Assad we are ready to fix him up,’ ” the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, told reporters who accompanied him on a flight home from the Russia-European Union summit meeting in Brussels, in comments carried by the Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies. “And we answered, ‘What do we have to do with it? If you have such plans, approach him directly.’ ”

“If there are people wishing to give him some kind of guarantees, be our guest,” he said. “We will be the first to cross ourselves and say, ‘Thank God, the carnage is over.’ Whether this will end the carnage — that is far from obvious. It is not obvious at all.”

He also said that Syria’s government had brought together its chemical weapons from a large number of locations throughout the country to one or two central storage places to keep them out of rebel hands.

Mr. Lavrov’s comments follow recent signals from Russia that it sees the military balance shifting, though Moscow has not changed its strong opposition to international intervention in Syria. [Continue reading…]

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