2012-11-19 10:00:00

Future of ethnic, religious groups in Syria should be determined before discussing Assad's fate - Putin

Moscow, November 19, Interfax - Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that, before discussing the fate of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, it is necessary to clarify the political future of various ethnic and religious groups in the country.

"We believe that it is necessary first to reach an agreement on the future and understand how legitimate rights and interests of various ethnic and religious groups will be ensured and only then switch to changes rather than vice versa - to dismiss Assad and then think what to do with this," Putin said at a press conference following Russian-German intergovernmental consultations.

Otherwise, this is fraught with developments in Syria similar to what happened in Libya, Putin said. "This way of dealing with such issues, like in Libya and other countries, engenders problems. It is well known what happened in Libya - the country's disintegration, the killings of diplomats, including a U.S. ambassador, in other words, chaos," Putin said.

While someone might "want chaos" in Syria, "we do not, since this is located right near our borders," he added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that the situation "has somewhat changed in the past days, because the Syrian opposition has consolidated."

"Let's see how firm this coalition is," she said.