STOCKHOLM, September 21 (RIA Novosti) – Russia is in theory prepared to change its stance on Syria if it finds out that Syrian President Bashar Assad is “cheating,” the Kremlin chief of staff said Saturday.
“I am talking theoretically and hypothetically here, but if we see any certainty that Assad is cheating, we could change our position,” said Sergei Ivanov, head of Russia’s presidential administration, speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Global Strategic Review conference in Stockholm.
Russia has been a staunch supporter of Assad’s government since fighting broke out in Syria in March 2011 between government forces and rebels. It has vociferously opposed the military intervention advocated by the US in the wake of a recent sarin gas attack on civilians near Damascus, and has repeatedly suggested that responsibility for the attack in late August lies with the armed rebels. The US and other Western countries say all evidence suggests that the government was to blame for the attack.
Ivanov described another hypothetical situation: one in which it emerges that both the Syrian government and the opposition have used chemical weapons.
“I can imagine what the global community will do then,” Ivanov said, adding that in the event of such a scenario, Russia would take “only diplomatic action – what else can we do?”
The Kremlin chief of staff warned that the Syrian opposition would entirely lose interest in any future negotiations in the event of external military intervention.
“It will count on the US – like in Libya – bombing the regime until it’s wiped out, and in doing so paving the way of the militants to easy victory,” Ivanov said.
He reiterated that it was the US’s responsibility to get the Syrian opposition to attend talks with the Syrian government that the US and Russia have been trying to organize for several months.
“The assertion that cruise missile strikes will help move along the peace process is not only unrealistic, it’s irresponsible,” Ivanov added.