Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is willing to hold snap parliamentary elections and share power with a “healthy opposition”.
Russia and Iran, have backed Assad since Syria’s civil war broke out in 2011.
Russia, along with other members of the BRICS bloc, have insisted on international efforts being geared to bring about a ‘political solution’ to the crisis rather than a military one.
Syria’s conflict began with anti-government demonstrations in March 2011, which soon spiraled into a multi-front civil war that has left more than 230,000 people dead, according to UN estimates.
“Overall there is an understanding that the unification of forces in the fight against terrorism should proceed in parallel with some sort of political process within Syria. The Syrian president agrees with that, all the way down to holding early parliamentary elections, establishing contacts with the so-called healthy opposition, and bringing them into the governing,” Putin said on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Friday.
“But this is, first of all, an issue of internal Syrian development; we are not imposing anything, but are ready to facilitate this internal Syrian dialogue,” he added.
A 2013 accord, brokered by Russia, took Assad’s declared chemicals out of Syria in an 11th-hour move to avert US bombing.
The Syrian government is fighting a number of rebel groups as well as radical militant organizations, including militants from ISIL and the Nusra Front.
“By the way, the people aren’t fleeing from the regime of Bashar Assad. They are fleeing from ISIL, which has seized their territories, including considerable parts of Syria, Iraq,” Putin said referring to the refugee crisis in Europe.
Russia has stressed in the past that Washington’s refusal to coordinate its airstrikes against purported ISIL positions in Syria with Damascus is a “mistake.” Western and Arab leaders have shied away from cooperating with Assad in the fight against the Islamic State to avoid being seen as legitimising his rule.
More than 300,000 people have crossed to Europe by sea so far this year and more than 2,600 have died during these desperate journeys.
“I think the crisis was absolutely expected. We in Russia, and me personally several times said it straight that pervasive problems would emerge, if our so-called Western partners continued to maintain their flawed, as I always stressed it, foreign policy, which they pursue to date, especially in regions of the Muslim world [such as] Middle East, North Africa,” Putin said on Friday.
“And it is, first of all, the policy of our American partners. Europe is blindly following this policy within the framework of the so-called allied liabilities, and in the end shoulders the entire burden. I am now quite surprised that some of the American mass media are criticizing Europe for what they consider to be excessive cruelty towards migrants,” the Russian President added.
As refugees land on European shores, “the ‘United States of Europe’ appeared singularly dis-united”, writes journalist and Faculty of Media at London College of Communication, Russell Merryman.
“While the EU itself resorted to lofty rhetoric about working together to deal with the crisis and developing equitable ways of distributing refugees among the member states, some of Merkel’s European partners began to retreat into petty nationalism,” writes Merryman.
“The worst display was from Hungary which built a 180km fence, while their pugnacious prime minister, Viktor Orban, said it was Germany’s problem and that the refugees threatened to undermine Europe’s Christian roots,” he adds.
TBP and Agencies