Putin: Non-stop civil war if Assad ousted

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on July 23, 2012 shows Syrian rebel fighters battling government troops in the northern city of Aleppo. (AFP Photo/YouTube)
Russian President Putin has warned that if the Assad government is overthrown, the ensuing civil war in Syria may see no end.

Speaking after a meeting with Italian PM Monti, Putin said thatt in the case if the Syrian authorities are displaced, “they will simply swap places with the current opposition and this will cause a civil war that would go on for no one knows how long.”

Putin also called on the conflicting parties to reach a compromise, saying this is the only path which ensures the country has a future. “The incumbent Syrian authorities as well as the so- called armed opposition must find strength to organize the talks and find a mutually acceptable compromise for the country’s future,” Putin told reporters.

“We believe that the following should be the course of action: halting the violence, conducting negotiations, searching for a solution, laying down a constitutional basis for the future society, and only then introducing structural changes, not vice versa. Doing things the other way around would only cause chaos,” Putin continued.

Prime Minister Monti told the press that a provisional government modeled on Lebanon's could be the best solution to the crisis. He added that such a government should include all elements of Syrian society, and that Russia should support such a move once it goes through the UN.

Putin replied that Russia’s position on the subject remained the same – the priority being putting an end to violence. “Both the government side and the armed opposition must end the violence and get to the negotiation table,” the Russian President said.

“We hold that the country’s future must be decided not on the basis of a military defeat or a military victory by one of the sides, but on the basis of the process of talks, on the basis of agreements and compromise,” Putin said.

“The agreements that were reached in the UN on prolonging the UN mission testify to the fact that despite certain splits in defining what is primary and what is secondary, compromises can be found on UN grounds and a settlement made with all sides for the benefit of the Syrian people,” Putin added.

Putin’s words echoed the statements made earlier by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other top Russian diplomats. Russia insists that both sides of the Syrian conflict take part in the settlement, sharply criticizing the unilateral approach of those nations who have blamed the crisis solely on President Assad and his government. Russia and China have repeatedly vetoed UN resolutions that threatened the Syrian regime with sanctions if the conflict continued, arguing that both the rebels and the government should be held responsible for the current situation.

Earlier this month, Russian officials received two delegations from the Syrian opposition in Moscow. Following the talks, the Syrian opposition recognized Russia’s roll in helping stabilize the situation in the country. On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to prolong the international monitors’ stay in Syria, a move suggested by Pakistan and supported by Russia.