Moscow denies asking Assad to step down
The denial comes after reports that the Kremlin requested that the embattled Syrian president quit
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was not asked to step down by Russia, nor did Moscow offer him political asylum, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
"In both cases, the answer is: 'No'," Lavrov told his annual news conference. "This is untrue... No one asked about political asylum, and no one offered anything of the kind."
His remarks came after reports that a late Russian general was sent to by President Vladimir Putin to ask Assad to step down – news that Putin has already denied.
Lavrov also said ISIS militants were building up influence in Afghanistan. He also insisted that U.N.-backed Syria talks planned to start later this week will not be successful if Kurdish representatives are not invited.
"Without this participant the talks cannot achieve the results that we want, a definitive political resolution in Syria," Lavrov said, adding, however, that it was up to U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura to decide which opposition groups to invite to the talks.
He said that some participants of the Syria peace process had been "capricious" by refusing to negotiate.
"When there are attempts to put conditions for collective fight against terrorism, conditions that are irrelevant, such as 'if you agree to a regime change, for example, in Syria, then we will for real begin to fight terrorism collectively' ... that is, I believe, the biggest mistake," Lavrov said.
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