MOSCOW, December 20 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Western politicians have started to admit that allowing Syrian President Bashar Assad to stay in power is a lesser evil than an Islamist regime.
“Some of our Western colleagues have started voicing the idea – not only in private conversations, but also publicly – that the rule of President Assad is a lesser threat to Syria, taking into account the growing influence of jihadists and terrorists who capture vast territories, impose sharia law, exterminate minorities and burn people alive only because their religion is different,” Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
He said it would be “incorrect” to say the rule of Assad was rendered illegitimate by the ongoing civil war, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives, according to the United Nations.
“If he had no popular support, the war would have been over a long time ago, the current leadership would have been wiped out, and no one knows what else would have happened there. According to estimates made by experts from various states, a significant number of people, up to a half of the population, see Assad as the guarantor of their interests and their security,” Lavrov said.
Speaking about Assad’s future, Russia’s top diplomat said the Syrian president “has no plans to leave his country. He will stay with his people and perform his duties.”
“Indeed, he [Assad] said that he does not rule out participating in next year’s presidential election, as envisaged by Syrian law,” Lavrov said. “He will make the decision later, depending on whether he feels he has popular support.”