The Russian government wants Syria to hold presidential and parliamentary elections. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has allegedly stated he would rather wait until “terrorism” is eradicated from the country to hold elections again.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Russian air force is willing to help the Free Syrian Army (FSA) “if it knew where they were.”
“External players can not decide anything for the Syrians,” stated Lavrov. “We must force them to come up with a plan for their country where the interests of every religious, ethnic and political group will be well protected. They need to prepare for both parliamentary and presidential elections.”
Russia began conducting airstrikes in Syria in late September. They assured Western observers that they would only target the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), but multiple reports have uncovered evidence that Russian warplanes are bombing anyone they consider an enemy of Assad.
Lavrov spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry over the weekend “to discuss organizing talks between the Syrian government and opposition.”
“They focused on their shared pursuit of options to achieve a political transition and discussed the potential for future multilateral meetings on the topic,” explained State Department spokesman John Kirby.
Assad visited Moscow last week to thank Russian President Vladmir Putin for his support during the four-year Syrian civil war.
“First of all I wanted to express my huge gratitude to the whole leadership of the Russian Federation for the help they are giving Syria,” said Assad. “If it was not for your actions and your decisions the terrorism which is spreading in the region would have swallowed up a much greater area and spread over an even greater territory.”
Syrian state news agency SANA did not mention “elections in its account of Assad’s meeting.” They did report Assad told the Kremlin “the elimination of terrorist groups” is the only way to gain peace in Syria. Russian parliamentary deputy Sergey Gavrilov said Assad gave him the impression that “the first aim (of Assad is) the struggle with and victory over… terrorism, and after that the elections – parliamentary and president elections.”
However, the Western-backed rebels are skeptical about any offers from Russia. They told the BBC they will refuse any assistance.
“They should stop attacking our bases and then we can talk about future co-operation,” retorted an FSA spokesman.
Lavrov said the U.S. is not sharing locations of the FSA, which is a “big mistake.” But the Southern Front of the FSA does not want Russia to know where they are located.
“If the Russians are serious in their offer they should stop immediately targeting our bases and targeting the civilian areas,” said the Southern Front spokesman Issam al-Reis. “So we didn’t turn down the offer. We just said we don’t need their help now.”