‘Legitimate’ ChangePutin said his main goal is to support the “legitimate” government in Syria while encouraging constitutional reforms, defending Assad’s use of force against his armed opponents. At the same time, the Russian leader said Assad has made “many mistakes” over the course of the Syrian conflict.
As Russia’s military intervention in Syria succeeds in bolstering Assad, opposition in Washington is weakening to the Kremlin’s insistence that he be allowed to compete in a presidential election in the next 18 months, according to Russian and Western officials.
A major rift between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran after attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions on Iranian soil in protest at the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric “hampers the efforts to settle the Syrian crisis,” Putin said. Saudi Arabia, a backer of rebels seeking Assad’s ouster, in response cut diplomatic ties with Iran, which is an ally of Syria along with Russia.
Putin also issued a warning to Turkey, whose Nov. 24 downing of a Russian warplane on the border with Syria ruined ties with the Kremlin. While Russia hopes such incidents won’t lead to large-scale hostilities, it will defend its security interests with all available means, Putin said.