Putin says swift Assad exit may leave political vacuum

Russia and U.S. have backed a summit on Syria.

Russia is concerned that a political vacuum will emerge in Syria and that militants will seize control if President Bashar al-Assad leaves power now, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday.

“We are concerned about the possible appearance of a political vacuum in Syria if some decisions about a change of government in Syria are taken now,” Mr. Putin told a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“If Assad goes today, and a political vacuum emerges – who will fill it? Maybe these terrorist organisations,” Mr. Putin said.

“Nobody wants this – but how can it be avoided? After all, they are armed and aggressive.”

Mr. Putin criticised foreign states that arm Assad’s opponents in a more than two-year-old conflict, just as he defended Russia’s weapons supplies to Assad’s government, saying “they are entirely legal’’. He said the only answer was an international peace conference that Russia and the U.S. want to convene.

“There is only one reasonable idea, which everybody supported at the G8,” he said, referring to a summit this week in Northern Ireland.

“It is to force all the conflicting sides to come to Geneva…and sit at the negotiating table, stop the violence, and find acceptable future structure for their state and the provision of security for all ethnic and religious groups.”


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