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Syria: A new Russian trick? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russian presidential candidate Vladimir Putin issued new statements commenting on the situation in Syria, and what is interesting is that these statements were not made in front of the Russian electorate, but to six international journalists: is this a new Russian trick, or a message to the West and our region?

Vladimir Putin said that Russia does not have any “special relationship” with Syria” adding “we only have interests in the conflict being resolved.” The Russian prime minister stressed that Moscow’s aim is not to help one side at the expense of the other but to secure comprehensive reconciliation. He also said that his country’s trade interests with Syria do not exceed British trade interests, or indeed the interests of any other European country. This is not all, Putin refused to openly express any support for al-Assad, responding to a question about al-Assad’s chances of surviving the Syrian revolution by saying “I do not know, and I cannot speculate on this.” Do the statements made by Putin, the next president of Russia, indicate a change in the Russian position on Syria, i.e. is Moscow now open to the idea of politically selling out al-Assad? Or is this just another Russian trick to give al-Assad another chance to crush the Syrian revolution?

Before answering, we must relate a story that has become well-known, namely that the Russians informed a delegation recently visiting their country – including a Lebanese political figure – that so long as Putin is Russia’s prime minister, al-Assad will be Syria’s president. However the meaning of this is clear, for the Russians did not say “so long as Putin remains in power” or “so long as Putin remains alive”, particularly as later this week, or to be more precise, the day after tomorrow, it is widely expected that Putin will be elected the new Russian president! What is also interesting regarding Putin’s statements is that these were issued to international journalists, whilst Putin also stated that his country wants comprehensive relations with Georgia, in other words Putin is preparing for a new phase in his political career. I have also heard information from various Arab sources claiming that Moscow has told them to stop the campaign of escalation against Russia and give them until 4 March, i.e. Sunday, when the Russian presidential elections will take place. Whilst other sources claim that they have heard that Moscow is open to the departure of al-Assad, but that Russia does oppose the complete collapse of the Syrian regime! We have also seen the Russian ambassador to Israel warning the Israelis, on a leaked video clip that can be seen on YouTube, that “if I were you, I’d prefer a bad guy like al-Assad to a dozen good guys from the Muslim Brotherhood.” This is a conflicting set of messages, indeed Putin’s statements in themselves are suspicious, particularly when he claimed that a Russian helicopter landed in Homs and attempted to rescue French journalist [Edith Bouvier], but this did not succeed, laying the blame for this on the Syrian rebels. However what is concerning here is: were Russian forces involved in the suppression of the Syrian people, in order to assist al-Assad?

Therefore, to answer the questions we must say that Moscow cannot be trusted, and action must be taken to aid the Syrian revolutionaries with arms, and more, particularly as the Syrian people continue to be mercilessly killed by the al-Assad regime forces.