Russia Won’t Pressure Syria’s Assad to Quit, Lawmaker Says

Russia won’t pressure Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to quit and wants to include government representatives in talks on the country’s future, a senior lawmaker said.

“Assad’s resignation cannot be a precondition for the start of this process,” Alexei Pushkov, the head of the foreign-affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said in an interview today in Moscow. “This is a sovereign right.”

Western powers are putting “incredible pressure” on Russia to change its position, which it won’t do, Pushkov said. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week insisted at a meeting in Dublin with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that any transition to a democratic Syria can’t include Assad.

Russia is resisting proposals made by Clinton to help broker a political transition in Syria by persuading Assad to relinquish power, Kommersant reported yesterday. Russia believes the Syrian leader will not agree to quit voluntarily and suggested that the U.S. and other opponents of the government lead any talks for Assad’s exit, the Moscow-based newspaper said, citing sources it didn’t identify.

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