MOSCOW, February 13 (RIA Novosti) – The United States is shifting toward Russia’s position on Syria, in fear of a repeat of the “Afghan scenario” with an Islamist regime coming to power there, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Wednesday.
“There is one moment in which our American friends are starting to get closer to our position… In particular, they have acknowledged that the fall of Syria’s administraton could unleash the most unfavorable consequences,” State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Alexei Pushkov told journalists on Wednesday.
“The Americans have understood that if everything collapses, we will have another Afghanistan,” Pushkov said, but did not support his claim with any evidence for his claim.
The rebel groups in Syria are supported by radical Islamist forces linked to international terrorist organizations, Pushkov said, adding this poses a danger to Christians, Shiites and other minorities in Syria.
“That’s why I think it is not about [Russia] shifting its positions, but it is about the West getting closer to recognizing our arguments,” Pushkov said.
He reiterated that Russia, which remains a staunch ally of Syria, will not agree to setting President Bashar al-Assad’s resignation as a precondition for peace talks.
“The Americans want us to use our pressure to oust Assad. I think we will not accept this, because we believe this is wrong. But we can use our influence to start the negotiation process, we are ready for this,” Pushkov said.
In its official statement last week, the US State Department said: “We are working with other nations to further isolate the regime and support the Syrian people’s calls for President Assad to step down.”
Syria has been locked in an increasingly bloody civil war since demonstrations broke out against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. According to UN estimates, at least 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Russia has faced strong international criticism over its refusal to back UN sanctions against Syria, over what it called the pro-rebel bias of some resolutions proposed by Western nations.
Moscow has consistently denied it is backing President Assad, and says it is concerned the Syrian president’s forced departure would only worsen the conflict.