G20, Los Cabos, 20 June 2012
QUESTION: Mr President, you probably discussed the Syrian issue a lot with your partners over these last two days. Many of your partners think that the only possible solution now is regime change, President Assad’s departure, in other words. You have said repeatedly that Russia is not clinging to Assad’s regime in particular, but that we need to have a clear picture of what would come next, of what a post-Assad Syria would look like. I imagine you put this question to your partners. What was their response? Were you satisfied with what you heard from them? If so, would Russia be willing to agree to regime change in Syria?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I see that I am going to have to repeat Russia’s position of principle. We think that no one has the right to decide for other peoples who should come to power and who should be removed from power. Yes, we know that part of Syria’s people, those represented by the armed opposition, want to see President Assad leave.
Firstly, they do not represent the entire Syrian people. Secondly, the most important thing is not simply changing the regime itself, but ensuring that if it does change – and this should be achieved through constitutional means only, the bloodshed will then stop and peace will return to the country.
But achieving this goal requires putting in the necessary work first. All of the parties in the armed conflict have to agree to stop the bloodshed, sit down at the negotiating table and first come to an agreement on how they are going to continue living together in the same country and guarantee the interests and security of everyone involved in the conflict. This is to take place first, and not as in some countries in North Africa where violence continues today even after the regime has changed.
This is Russia’s position of principle. I think that our partners not only listened to but to a certain extent agreed with this point of view during the discussions on Syria, although we do still have differences in our assessments. We agreed to work together on resolving this problem.