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Russia’s stance on Assad suggests divergence

Published: Updated:

Russia does not see keeping Bashar al-Assad in power as a matter of principle, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Tuesday in comments that suggested a divergence of opinion with Iran, the Syrian president’s other main international backer.

Fuelling speculation of Russian-Iranian differences over Assad, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps suggested on Monday that Tehran may be more committed to him than Russia, saying Moscow “may not care if Assad stays in power as we do.”

While Russia and Iran have been Assad's foremost foreign supporters during Syria’s four-year-old war, the United States, its Gulf allies and Turkey have insisted the president must step down as part of any eventual peace deal.

Talks in Vienna on Friday among the main foreign players involved in diplomatic efforts on Syria failed to reach agreement on Assad.