Putin says Assad agrees to early parliamentary polls
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at the Russia's first ever Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok on September 4, 2015. AFP PhotoRussian President Vladimir Putin said on Sept.4 that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was willing to hold early parliamentary elections and share power with the "healthy" opposition.
Putin said the Russian-backed Syrian leader agreed with him that "political changes are necessary" in Syria.
"The Syrian president agrees with this... right up to the point of holding early parliament elections and establishing contacts with the so-called healthy opposition and engaging them in governing," Putin said in a televised speech at an economic forum in far eastern Russia.
Syria last held parliamentary elections in May 2012, which were boycotted by the opposition and denounced by the international community. The next elections are in theory scheduled to take place in 2016.
Putin said Russia was "ready to facilitate this dialogue inside Syria."
Putin also said the European migrant crisis was prompted by the atrocities of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group, not by Assad.
ISIL "is committing atrocities there, so that's why they're fleeing."
Putin said it was "premature" to talk about Russia taking part in military operations against the Islamic State group, as the US said it was verifying reports of Russian troops in Syria.
Russia has steadfastly used its UN Security Council veto to support Assad throughout the four-year civil war that has claimed some 240,000 lives. Moscow also provides arms to Assad.
Moscow has been pushing for a broader grouping than the current US-led coalition to fight ISIL, which would include Syria's government and its allies.
Assad's opponents have rejected the idea.