Russia issues rare criticism of Syria's Assad
In a rare instance of criticism, a Russian diplomat called on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to "refrain from [re-election] statements," according to Reuters.
The Russian criticism comes ahead of planned Geneva II peace talks to end the conflict in Syria, which the diplomat emphasized could be undermined if Assad continues his public commentary on his re-election prospects.
“Such rhetorical statements affect the atmosphere and do not make the situation any calmer. Our position is that ahead of the start of negotiations, there should be no remarks that could displease anyone or provoke emotions and a response. They should rather be avoided,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.
Since October, Assad has repeatedly made public comments that he has "no intention of quitting" and "[sees] no obstacles to being nominated for a new term."
Russia have been involved in the peace talk preparations that have been recently moved to the Swiss town of Montreaux, and has also been Assad's leading ally during the Syrian Civil War. Moscow has repeatedly blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions that would oust Assad from power.