Russia says it won’t host Assad but others welcome
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. REUTERS photo
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow would welcome any country’s offer of a safe haven to Syrian President Bashar Assad, but underlined that Moscow itself has no intention of giving him shelter if he steps down, AP has reported.
Russia has used its veto right at the U.N. Security Council to protect its old ally from international sanctions, but it has increasingly sought to distance itself from Assad.
Lavrov told reporters late Friday that countries in the region he wouldn’t name publicly had asked Russia to convey their offer of a safe passage to Assad. He said that Russia responded by telling them to go directly to Assad.
"If there is anyone willing to provide him guarantees, they are welcome!" Lavrov told reporters on board a plane returning from Brussels where he attended a Russia-EU summit. "We would be the first to cross ourselves and say: "Thank God, the carnage is over! If it indeed ends the carnage, which is far from certain."
He also said the Syrian government has pulled its chemical weapons together to one or two locations from several arsenals across the country to keep them safe amid the rebel onslaught.
"According to the information we have, as well as the data of the U.S. and European special services, the government is doing everything to secure it," he said. "The Syrian government has concentrated the stockpiles in one or two centers, unlike the past when they were scattered across the country."
U.S. intelligence says the regime may be readying chemical weapons and could be desperate enough to use them. Both Israel and the U.S. have also expressed concerns they could fall into militant hands if the regime crumbles.
Lavrov added that U.N. peace envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, would visit Moscow for talks before the year’s end.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday he believed Western powers had no desire to intervene in the Syrian conflict, AFP reported.
"I have a feeling that no one has any appetite for external intervention," Lavrov told journalists travelling with him on a flight to Moscow from an EU-Russia summit in Brussels, quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency.
"I even have the feeling that they are praying for Russia and China to continue blocking permission for external intervention. Because if there is such a decision, they will have to act, and no one is ready to act," he said.
Lavrov reiterated Russia's opposition to any intervention, citing UN Security Council resolutions that NATO used to justify military strikes in Libya.
"We are convinced that the UN Security Council must not take any more ambiguous decisions, after our partners behaved so abominably over the resolution on Libya," he said. Russia remains one of Syrian regime's last major allies and along with China has shielded President Bashar al-Assad from UN sanctions aimed at punishing him for his use of heavy force against his armed resistance.
Moscow's position has frustrated Western attempts to end the 21 months of bloodshed by forcing Assad from power. The West has also condemned Moscow's continued military ties with Damascus, its traditional ally from the former Soviet era.