Russia says it won't oppose Assad departure

Increasingly isolated in the world community because of its support of Syria's brutal crackdown, Russia is giving signs that it may be willing to see the departure of their ally, President Bashar Assad, under certain conditions.


Russia will not oppose the departure of Syria's President Bashar Assad if such a move is a result of a dialogue between Syrians themselves and is not enforced through external pressure, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

"If the Syrians agree (about Assad's departure) between each other, we will only be happy to support such a solution," Lavrov told reporters. "But we believe it is unacceptable to impose the conditions for such a dialogue from outside."

Seventeen people, including 10 women, were killed overnight by shelling in the Syrian town of Deraa, where the uprising against Assad erupted 15 months ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.

Fighting was also reported in Homs and Damascus, killing a total of 44 civilians and 25 on Friday, the group said, showing neither side was respecting a UN-backed ceasefire, the failure of which has left outside powers divided on what to do next.

"We didn't sleep all night, the situation is a mess, all kinds of explosions and heavy weapons," a Deraa resident who called himself Adnan, said via Skype.

"We could hear the blast from the rockets hitting in the neighborhood nearby. If we were afraid, you can imagine how afraid our children are."

Two massacres of civilians in the last two weeks have added urgency to talks between foreign powers on what to do since the ceasefire, supposed to take effect on April 12, has failed to stop the violence.

There is less to this proposal than one might think. The Syrian National Council says it will not speak to the regime until Assad is no longer in power. And it is highly unlikely that Assad would simply give up power and go into exile. Russia knows this, but what is significant is that their previous insistence that there be no regime change has now been dropped.

While the Russian statement doesn't materially effect the situation, it is a psychological blow to the Assad regime. Their bulwark against the rest of the world - Russia and China - appear to be wavering in the face of horrific massacres of women and children. But judging by the continuing rise in the body count, this won't deter Assad from going ahead with even more brutal tactics to put down the revolt.

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