Russia’s envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, warned long-term ally Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad over his vow to retake all of Syria, saying that if he did not comply with Moscow over the peace process, he would face dire consequences.
Churkin said Russia was working towards a peaceful settlement for Syria and that attempting to take back control over the whole country would be a futile exercise which would allow the conflict to drag on indefinitely.
"Russia has invested very seriously in this crisis, politically, diplomatically and now also militarily," Churkin told a Russian newspaper, referring to an international agreement to cease hostilities sealed in Munich last week.
"Therefore we would like Assad also to respond to this," Churkin said, adding that the Syrian leader's stance "is not in accord with the diplomatic efforts that Russia is making."
The 17-nation body supporting Syrian peace process agreed to work for a ceasefire, the lifting of starvation sieges and the resumption of talks at their meeting in Munich.
Assad defiantly vowed in an interview last week to retake the whole of Syria, speaking before the plan for a nationwide "cessation of hostilities" in the country was announced.
If Syria "follows Russia's leadership in resolving this crisis, then they have a chance to come out of it in a dignified way," Churkin stressed.
"If they in some way stray from this path - and this is my personal opinion - a very difficult situation could arise. Including for themselves," he warned.
"If they proceed on the basis that no ceasefire is necessary and they need to fight to a victorious end, then this conflict will last a very long time and that is terrifying to imagine," he added.
Churkin said he believed that Assad’s comments were made for political impact.
"It isn't worth putting too much significance into one statement or another and dramatising them," Churkin said.
"We should be guided not by what he says, with all respect for the statements of a person at such a high level, but by what he finally does," he added.
Churkin said of the Munich agreement that "Damascus, as I hope, understands this is a unique chance for Syria after five years of unremitting destruction."
Moscow and Damascus have been in lock-step since the end of September last year, when Russia launched air strikes to support Assad regime and fight terrorists, saying that it was targeting the DAESH terrorist group.