Russian Diplomats Downplay Suggestion of Assad’s Defeat

MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday downplayed earlier comments made by the ministry’s deputy head in which he suggested that the Syrian opposition could win the civil war raging in the country.

Mikhail Bogdanov has not made any specific statements for the press on Syria in recent days, the ministry said on Friday.

The Syrian conflict was discussed at a roundtable in Moscow on Thursday, attended by Bogdanov, where speakers cited the Syrian opposition’s statements about their inevitable victory, the ministry explained in the carefully worded statement.

The Foreign Ministry said that, speaking at the roundtable, Bogdanov had reiterated Russia’s position: Moscow wants to see a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

Bogdanov’s contribution to Thursday’s discussion was widely quoted in the Russian and international media: “We have to face up to reality, the trend is that the Syrian authorities, the Syrian government is increasingly losing control, losing more and more territory. Sadly, a victory by the Syrian opposition cannot be ruled out.”

It was also welcomed by the US Department of State, which commended Moscow “for finally waking up to the reality.”

But on Friday Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was dismissive. “I saw the US State Department spokeswoman citing [Bodganov] and praising how Moscow has finally woken up and is changing its position,” he said.

“But we never slept. And we never changed our position, and will not do so in the future,” Lukashevich said at a press briefing in Moscow.

More than 30,000 people died in the 21-month-long standoff between the Syrian opposition and the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, according to UN estimates.

The United States has repeatedly called for Assad’s ouster, while Russia has insisted that the opposition shares the blame for the violence and that political dialog is the only way of stopping the civil war.


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