Closest ally Russia now hints at Assad's 'possible' ouster in Syria
Syria's most powerful ally and protector, Russia, has apparently begun positioning itself for the fall of President Bashar Assad, saying for the first time that rebels might overthrow him and preparing to evacuate thousands of Russian citizens from the country.
"An opposition victory can't be excluded, unfortunately, but it's necessary to look at the facts: There is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory," Fox News quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Moscow's Middle East envoy, as saying.
According to the report, the head of NATO also echoed the Russian assessment, saying the Syrian government is near collapse following a nearly two-year conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people in the Middle East.
"I think now it's only a question of time. I urge the regime to stop violence, to realize what is the actual situation and initiate a process that leads to the accommodation of the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
It is being said that Assad appears to be running out of options, with insurgents at the gates of the capital and the country fracturing under the weight of a devastating civil war.
However, Bogdanov gave no immediate signal that Russia would change its pro-Syria stance at the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow has shielded Damascus from world sanctions.
Following Russia's renewed stance on the Syrian war, the U.S. commended Russia "for finally waking up to the reality and acknowledging that the regime's days are numbered," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
"We call on Russia to work with us ... work with the various stakeholders in Syria to start moving towards a transitional structure, and we would like to have their help in doing that," she added.