Russia says it is willing to see Syria's President Bashar al-Assad leave power – but not by force.
In a significant change from its prior position, Moscow appears to have come to the realization that Assad's regime is teetering, and is not likely to last much longer.
A senior Russian diplomat was quoted by the pan-Arab Al Arabiya news network as saying Russia is prepared to see Assad leave power as part of a political settlement.
The statement, however, comes in contradiction to a joint statement made with China the next day, on Wednesday, in which the two nations said they strongly oppose intervention and regime change in Damascus.
"Russia and China are decisively against attempts to regulate the Syrian crisis with outside military intervention, as well as imposing a policy of regime change, including within the Security Council,” the statement said.
Developments in Syria “are significant for peace and stability in the Middle East and the entire world, and should be regulated through political dialogue among all participants of the conflict,” the statement said.
At a news conference in Beijing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists that comply with the opposition calls for the forcible removal of the Assad regime would lead to “catastrophe” in Syria.
Lavrov underscored Russia's firm support for the six-point peace plan advanced by United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. He called for a new international meeting to strategize on ways to deal with the Syrian conflict, to include Turkey and Iran.