Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview released Thursday that his Russian ally has “never” discussed a political transition with him, despite international support for such a process.
Speaking to NBC News in Damascus, the embattled leader insisted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had never raised the issue of his departure or a political transition with him.
“Only the Syrian people define who’s going to be the president, when to come, and when to go. They never said a single word regarding this,” he said.
His comments came as US Secretary of State John Kerry headed back to Moscow for new meetings with Putin to discuss the situation in Syria, where a devastating five-year civil war has killed more than 280,000 people.
Russia and the United States are nominally co-chairs of international efforts to bring Assad’s regime to the negotiating table with armed opposition groups.
But there has been little progress towards a resumption of political talks that was scheduled for August 1.