Russia says no plans to offer Assad asylum
Moscow, July 5, 2012
Russia dismissed suggestions on Thursday that it was planning to offer political asylum to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said two prominent opposition leaders were coming to Moscow for talks next week.
'It (the rumour of Russia granting asylum to Assad) is either an attempt to mislead serious people dealing with foreign policy or a lack of understanding of Russia's position,' Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council agreed at talks last week that a transitional government should be set up in Syria to end the bloodshed there but left open the question of what part Assad might play.
Lavrov said the issue of political asylum for Assad first came up during talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Berlin last month, adding that it was first raised by the German side.
'Our delegation took it as a joke and responded also with a joke: Why don't you, Germans, take Assad if he wants to go somewhere?', Lavrov told a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
'I was very surprised when, during my recent contacts with my foreign colleagues, when we were discussing the Syrian issue, I heard that they are convinced that we will take Assad and thus solve all the Syrian people's problems,' Lavrov said.
He also said Abdelbasset Sida, the new leader of the main Syrian opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, and prominent opposition activist Michel Kilo would visit Moscow for talks next week. He gave no details.-Reuters