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    Syrians walk past a giant campaign billboard of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on June 1, 2014 in the capital Damascus

    Syrian National Coalition Leader Says Assad Issue Not Discussed With Russia

    © AFP 2019 / JOSEPH EID
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    The Syrian National Coalition and Russia did not discuss political figures who may replace country's President Bashar Assad, according to head of the coalition Khaled Khoja.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Syrian National Coalition and Russian authorities did not discuss who may come to power in Syria instead of the country's current President Bashar Assad, head of the coalition Khaled Khoja said Friday.

    On Thursday, Khoja met with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

    "We did not discuss [political] figures alternative to Bashar Assad," Khoja said, adding that Assad must not be present in a post-war Syrian government.

    Russian authorities are mainly focusing on Syria's territorial integrity in their efforts to help it reach political settlement, and not on current President Bashar Assad staying in power, Khoja added.

    "We saw understanding from the Russian side of [the coalition's] vision regarding settlement," Khoja told reporters.

    "The Russian leadership is not clinging to Bashar Assad now, but is guided bu the principle of Syria's territorial integrity," he said.

    According to Khoja, there are currently no points of disagreement between coalition and Moscow on this issue, and the sides intend to continue holding meetings to find a solution to the Syrian conflict.

    Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with the government of President Bashar Assad fighting against many opposition powers and extremist groups, such as the Islamic State.

    Assad is not considered legitimate by most Western countries. Several NATO states have been training "moderate" Syrian rebels. The US-led coalition against the Islamic State has been launching airstrikes against extremists’ positions in the country without seeking the permission of Damascus.

    Russia has insisted that the Syrians should have the right to choose their own leader.

    Moscow has repeatedly stated that the coalition should have sought permission from Syria and the United Nations prior to launching its operations.

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    Syrian National Coalition, Bashar al-Assad, Russia
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