Russia rejects 'joke' of hosting Assad

2012-07-05 20:49
Bashar Assad (AFP)

Bashar Assad (AFP)

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Moscow - Russia on Thursday confirmed that some of its Western partners had asked Moscow to offer Syrian President Bashar Assad asylum but said it had dismissed the idea as a joke.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the idea was first raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her 1 June talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Berlin.

"Our side thought this was a joke and responded with a joke - how about you, the Germans, take Mr Assad instead," Lavrov said during a joint press appearance with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle.

Lavrov said he was "quite surprised" when the idea was raised again during a meeting of Western and regional powers on the crisis in Geneva on Saturday.

"While discussing the subject of Syria, I heard them say they were convinced that we would take him and thus resolve all the problems of the Syrian people," Russia's top diplomat said.

"This is either a dishonest attempt to deceive serious people involved in foreign policy or a misunderstanding of the facts."

Russia has previously rejected the idea of hosting the Syrian strongman while refusing to say whether it had actually been approached on the subject by the West.

Putin himself was forced to dismiss such speculation just days after his election to an historic third term in March.

Lavrov repeated Russia's displeasure with the slow pace of reforms pursued by its Soviet-era ally while once again arguing that any attempts at forced regime change were doomed to end in even greater violence.

"Yes, the regime bears the main responsibility. And governments bear the main responsibility for ensuring the security of their people," said Lavrov.

But those who seek regime change in Syria "ignore the fact that we are not talking about a few dozen people - as they tell us we are - but a very large part of the Syrian population that ties its security to the current president", he stressed.

Read more on:    angela merkel  |  bashar assad  |  vladimir putin  |  syria  |  russia  |  uprisings  |  syria conflict
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