Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will leave his post if its people elected another candidate in the presidential election, said Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov in an interview Monday night with the French daily Le Figaro. "Bashar al-Assad has clearly stated that if the people did not want him, and if they elected another leader in a presidential election, he would go," said the Russian diplomat.
"We have never said that keeping Assad in power was a prerequisite to any negotiations. But we also say that it is not the Russians or the French, to decide the fate of the Syrian president," he added.
The Russian Deputy Minister stressed that the regime of Bashar al-Assad "is still stable" and that he "enjoys strong support from the population." "This support is not motivated by love of the Syrians to Assad, but rather the fear of those who would succeed him," said the senior Russian official.
In a bid to potentially resolve the Syrian crisis, the Deputy Russian Foreign Minister has proposed to convene a conference with the participation of all parties involved in the conflict. "This conference will bring together representatives of the opposition and the regime, but also Christian, Alawite, Druze representatives. It will ensure non-violent crisis and allow the contours of Syria for tomorrow," said the diplomat.
The presidential election should be held in Syria in 2014, he added.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Iran met in Cairo yesterday to discuss the Egyptian initiative for a preparatory meeting on Syria. So far, Iran has been ruled out from diplomatic efforts to try to find a solution to the crisis.
The initiative for the establishment of a quartet on Syria would be tantamount to Egypt. The Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammad Kamel Amr has told the press that a meeting would be held in Cairo "in the coming days," but gave no date, while a Turkish diplomat believed that "the ministerial meeting could be held next week."
The Egyptian government wants to try to reach an agreement on several points, including the end of violence, territorial unity of Syria, the rejection of any foreign military intervention and the launch of a political process to address the "aspirations (the Syrian people) to democracy, freedom and dignity, "said the Foreign Ministry.
In this context, the new international mediator for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi acknowledged yesterday that his task was "very difficult" at the beginning of his delicate peace mission to Cairo. "I realize that this is a very difficult mission, but I think I have no right to refuse to provide assistance to the Syrian people," said Brahimi after a meeting with Nabil el-Arabi, the head of the Arab League. He said he had to go to Syria "in the coming days" to "meet with officials and people from the civil society." While saying he "hopes" to meet Assad, he stressed that at this stage he "did not know" if it would be possible.
Mr. Arabi for his part said that the mission of Mr. Brahimi was "almost impossible" but expressed confidence in the ability of the Algerian diplomat to lead.