The removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power is not a quick and easy fix for the country’s problems, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday.
“The internal conflict currently tearing Syrian society apart will not disappear with the departure of one or another political figure,” Medvedev said at a nuclear summit in Seoul. “To consider that Assad’s departure would solve all the problems would be very nearsighted.”
"I would like the decision on the fate of the Syrian state, society, political system and people to be taken not by the respected leaders of world powers, even by those acting in good faith, but by the Syrian people themselves, by all levels of Syrian society," Medvedev said
Medvedev said on Sunday that UN envoy Kofi Annan's peace mission to Syria may be the last chance to avoid a "prolonged and bloody civil war".
While Russia has vetoed UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, saying they place the blame for the conflict solely on the authorities, it has given full backing to Annan’s mission. And in an apparent hardening of Russia’s position on Syria, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Assad had handled initial peaceful protests “incorrectly.”
But Russia said on Tuesday that it would not attend the second Friends of Syria meeting, set for this weekend in Istanbul.
"Meetings of this type unfortunately tend to be one-sided," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The U.N. says more than 8,000 people have been killed, many of them civilians, during the year-long uprising against Assad’s rule.