Assad Running Out of Time, Russia’s Medvedev Says on CNN

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chances of remaining in power are diminishing and he must sit at the negotiating table with all of Syria’s ethnic and religious groups to bring an end to the country’s civil war, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said.

Medvedev has called Assad several times urging him to negotiate, the Russian premier said in an interview with CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The interview is scheduled for broadcast today.

The conflict in Syria is a threat to ally Russia as well as Europe and the U.S. because Syria’s opposition is increasingly represented by Islamic radicals who will infiltrate other countries, Medvedev said. The Syrian people must decide their own future through “genuine national dialogue,” he said. Russia’s goal has never been to preserve Syria’s current political regime, he said.

“With every day, with every week, with every month, the chances of him surviving are becoming less and less,” Medvedev said through a translator, according to a transcript provided by CNN. “I personally a few times called Assad and said ‘You need to start reforms, you need to sit at the negotiating table.’ Unfortunately, the Syrian authorities turned out not to be ready for this.”

Civil War

Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Druze and Christians need to be represented in efforts to end a civil war for which both sides, the Syrian authorities and the opposition, are responsible, Medvedev said.

Syrian rebels, mostly Sunni Muslims, have been fighting to oust Assad since March 2011 in a conflict that, according to the United Nations, has left at least 60,000 people dead. Along with winter weather, shortages of food and fuel have increased the hardships for Syrians in cities torn by fighting.

Medvedev was also asked about Russia’s decision to halt U.S. adoptions of Russian children, which he said was motivated by cases of mistreatment of Russian orphans adopted by Americans, and wasn’t retaliation for U.S. actions in the case of Sergei Magnitsky.

Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management Ltd., died at the age of 37 while in pre-trial detention after uncovering the biggest known tax fraud in Russian history, a theft of $230 million from the national treasury. The case sparked a diplomatic row, with the U.S. imposing sanctions on Russian officials accused of having a role in Magnitsky’s death. Moscow barred Americans from adopting Russian orphans last month.

Discussing his own political career, Medvedev said it would have been “pointless” and “counterproductive” to fight against his friend Vladimir Putin to win a second term as president. Medvedev’s switch to the role of prime minister last year as Putin assumed the presidential role “achieved the main goal, to ensure continuity,” he said.

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