Russia has made no agreement to grant Syrian President Bashar al-Assad asylum and is “not even thinking about” doing so, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday, as France urged the U.N. Security Council to rapidly intervene in the conflict to pre-empt an all-out civil war.
Lavrov’s remarks fell short of a statement that Russia would not consider taking in Assad but were among Moscow’s strongest indications yet that it is not planning to do so.
“We have said more than once publicly that we are not even thinking about this,” Lavrov told reporters when asked about media reports Russia was ready to offer Assad asylum.
French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday he would try again to convince Russia and China to support harder sanctions against Assad in order to break a diplomatic deadlock and prevent more bloodshed.
“I will once more address Russia and China so that they recognize there would be chaos and civil war if Bashar al-Assad isn’t soon stopped,” Hollande said, speaking to the press during a visit to a farm in the southwestern town of Monlezun.
“The regime of Bashar al-Assad knows it is doomed and so it will use force until the very end,” he said. “The role of the member states of the U.N. Security Council is to step in as quickly as possible.”
“The role of the countries of the Security Council is to intervene as quickly as possible,” he said, specifically addressing Damascus allies Russia and China and warning that failure to do so would mean “chaos and civil war.”
“The only solution which will allow Syrians to reconcile and reunite is the departure of Bashar al-Assad and the formation of a transitional government,” Hollande said.
“It is not too late but with every passing day it’s more repression, upheavals and consequently massacres.”
Russia on Saturday warned a “tragedy” was looming but said it was unrealistic to expect the government would stand by when rebels were occupying major cities.