`Russia prepared to see Assad stepping down`

Russia`s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that his country would back any peaceful settlement to end Syrian crisis.

Updated: Jun 06, 2012, 13:24 PM IST

Moscow: Russia has said that it was prepared to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stepping down from power in a negotiated solution to end 15 months of bloodshed that has claimed over 13, 000 lives.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that Russia would back any peaceful settlement to end the crisis, as long as it did not involve the use of outside force.

"We have never said or insisted that Assad necessarily had to remain in power at the end of the political process," News 24 quoted Gatilov as saying.

"This issue has to be settled by the Syrians themselves," Gatilov said a day after meeting UN mediator Kofi Annan in Geneva. Russia is facing huge pressure from the West to back Assad’s departure as the first step to end the Syrian crisis.

Gatilov also said that the Yemeni model could only be relevant if the rebels agreed to lay down their arms and sit down for talks.

"When we discuss applying the Yemeni model to the situation in Syria, we have to keep in mind that unfortunately, there is no desire from the opposition to engage in any political talks with the government," Gatilov said.

Gatilov`s comments came as another top Russian official announced that a US delegation headed by Washington`s Syria crisis point man Frederic Hof would be travelling to Moscow later this week.