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Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria not crucial for Russia

Moscow: The maintenance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power was not a matter of principle for Moscow, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said.

“Absolutely not, we have never said that,” Zakharova said in an interview with the radio station Echo of Moscow, in response to a question on whether keeping al-Assad in power was a crucial issue to Russia.

The spokeswoman insisted that the official position of Moscow was that the Syrian people should decide the fate of al-Assad, as reiterated in recent weeks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“We are not saying that al-Assad must go or stay,” said Zakharova.

Moscow, which considers al-Assad as the legitimate president of Syria and its main ally, began on September 30 an aerial intervention at the request of the Syrian leader.

Zakharova reiterated on Tuesday that the future of al-Assad was not discussed at the last ministerial meeting in Vienna, where the launch of a dialogue process in Syria was discussed.