Russia says keeping Assad in power ‘not matter of principle’

Russian Foreign Ministry states it never said keeping Assad in power is matter of principle for Russia

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova attends a news briefing in Moscow, Russia on October 6 2015

Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said that keeping Bashar al Assad in power in Syria is not a matter of principle.

Answering a reporter's question that  whether keeping Assad in power is a matter of principle for Russia, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said “absolutely not, we have never said that,” according to Sputnik.

“The future of the president should be decided by the Syrian people,” Zakharova said.

“We are not saying that Assad must go or stay.”

Russia has been one of Assad's most important supporters since the civil war started in 2011, and started air strikes on September 30 to help forces loyal to the regime.

Russia also hosted Assad in Kremlin last month, in his first and only visit abroad since the civil war started in 2011.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on October 20 2015

The statement came days after a large-scale meeting to discuss Syria’s four-year civil war in Vienna.

Foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey attended the meeting among officials from several other countries.

Russia and Iran have been supporting the idea that Assad should not be forced to give up power.

The US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations have insisted that Assad must go and that he could not play a long-term role in Syria’s future.

"I would say that this meeting definitely was not an easy one, but for sure a historic one as we had, for the first time, all the actors around the table, and I would say a very constructive atmosphere," EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said after the meeting.

The Syrian civil war has claimed over 250,000 lives, most of which have been killed by Assad regime.

TRTWorld and agencies