Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Presidential residence at Novo-Ogaryova outside Moscow September 4, 2012. (REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Kremlin)
MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Western and Arab powers Thursday to reassess their stance on Syria and ensure the security of its current leadership in any power transition process.
“Why should Russia be the only one reassessing its position? Perhaps our negotiating partners should reassess their position,” Putin told Russia Today television.
“Because if you recall what happened in recent years… you will see that far from all of our partners’ initiatives ended the way they wanted them to,” he said in reference to Western involvement in countries such as Libya.
The Russian leader stressed that talks should still be able to end the escalating violence and insisted that the fate of its Soviet-era ally’s new government should be decided by the Syrians themselves.
He also made the security of the regime’s negotiating team and leadership a condition of any transition process. Putin made no reference to President Bashar Assad himself.
“To us, the most important thing is to end the violence, to force all the sides in the conflict… to sit down at the negotiating table, determine the future and ensure the security of all the participants of the domestic political process,” Putin said.
“Only then move on to these practical steps about the internal organization of the country itself.”
Russia has stirred Western and Arab world anger by vetoing three UN Security Council resolutions providing for sanctions against Assad during the 18-month conflict and accused the United States of openly pursuing “regime change”.
Putin dismissed criticism that Russia was shielding Assad by using its UN veto and supplying his army with arms.
“We understand perfectly well that changes there are needed, but believe that this does not mean that these changes should be bloody,” said Putin.
“We have an equal amount of respect for all,” he stressed.
Russia has been holding periodic consultations in Moscow with representatives of Syria’s various opposition groups.
But its first meeting with the Syrian National Council in July ended with the umbrella group accusing Moscow of inciting more bloodshed through its stance.