British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted that Syrian President Bashar Assad will likely remain in power "for a while" thanks to support from his Russian allies.
"I think you know the British long-standing position is that we won't have lasting peace in Syria with that regime. But regretfully we do think he's going to be around for a while and that is because of the support that he's had from Russia," Hunt said, speaking to Sky News.
"Russia may think that it's gained a sphere of influence. What we would say to them is: Yes — and you've also gained a responsibility. If you're going to be involved in Syria then you need to make sure that there really is peace in Syria. And that means making sure that President Assad does not use chemical weapons on his own people," Hunt added.
The UK, the US and France have repeatedly accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against civilians in areas of the country controlled by various armed groups. Damascus and its allies have repeatedly shown that the majority of the so-called chemical attacks have been false-flag operations staged by groups such as the Western-backed White Helmets in a bid to prompt a Western military intervention.
Syria descended into foreign-backed civil conflict in 2011, as multiple factions dominated by Islamist radicals attempted to overthrow the government. Russia intervened in the conflict in late September 2015, concentrating its efforts on thrashing Daesh (ISIS)* militants which had taken over eastern Syria, as well as other terrorists such as Nusra Front (aka al-Qaeda in Syria)* in other parts of the country. By mid-2018, thanks to efforts by the Syrian and Russian militaries, as well as Hezbollah and Iranian military advisors, Daesh was routed in Syria, and the vast majority of the terrorists and other anti-government rebels retreated to the northern province of Idlib, which remains the only part of the country under partial terrorist control.
*Terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.