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Putin pressuring Assad to show 'more flexibility' in opposition talks: report

Opposition militias started forming in 2011, as the conflict gradually became a full-fledged war [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 April, 2020

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With oil prices collapsing and a coronavirus pandemic at hand, Russia is hoping to reach a political solution for Syria to end the war, a report said on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is insisting its ally, the Syrian regime, show "more flexibility" in political settlement talks with the Syrian opposition, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

Citing former Russian officials and recent unprecedented Russian criticisms of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the report claimed Putin is "insisting that Assad show more flexibility in talks with the Syrian opposition" on a political solution in order to wrap up the nine-year conflict.

"The Kremlin needs to get rid of the Syrian headache," Alexander Shumilin, a former Russian diplomat told Bloomberg. Shumilin, who now runs Moscow's state-financed Europe-Middle East Center said Russia's problem with Syria was with "one person" – Assad.  

Criticisms in Russian publications reportedly come down to Assad's refusal to give up any power in return for potential reconstruction aid as well as international recognition. 

Despite the reports, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has "denied that Putin is unhappy with Assad for refusing to compromise with Syria’s opposition in negotiating a political settlement," the Bloomberg report said.

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Internal spats between Assad and Russia are not uncommon. Russia is reportedly angry with Assad after the Syria leader violated a ceasefire in rebel-held Idlib in January, prompting intervention from Turkey. A new ceasefire has been in place since early March. 

Russia’s 2015 intervention in the Syrian conflict, which lead to the deaths of thousands of Syrians, is considered to have been a decisive factor in Assad's continuing rule of Syria. 

Read also: Syria's White Helmets join the fight against coronavirus

Despite Russia's role, Assad is not "proving as grateful for being kept in power" as Putin needs him to be, the Bloomberg report said. 

Russia's involvement in Syria has landed the European giant a 49-year lease of the Tartus port.

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