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The Guardian: West rejected a Russian offer for Assad to step aside

The UK’s Guardian newspaper revealed that more than three years ago Russia proposed that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad step down as part of a comprehensive peace agreement but the West ignored the proposal.

The paper reported that former Finnish President and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari said: “Western powers failed to seize on the proposal,” noting that since Russia submitted the proposal in 2012, tens of thousands of Syrians were killed and millions displaced, resulting in the biggest wave of refugees the world has ever witnessed since World War II.

The report explains that in February 2012, Ahtisaari held discussions with envoys of the five permanent member states in the UN Security Council. During these discussions, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin submitted a plan that consisted of 3 points including that Al-Assad step down after the start of negotiations between the regime and the opposition.

Ahtisaari also said that the United States, France and United Kingdom were confident about the fall of Al-Assad’s regime, and they decided to disregard the plan. “It was an opportunity which was missed in 2012,” Ahtisaari told the Guardian.

The newspaper mentioned that Russia officially continued supporting the Syrian regime and rejected Al-Assad’s ouster as part of any political settlement. Al-Assad expressed confidence that Russia would never abandon him and Russia has even started to send troops and military equipment to Syria.

The paper also reported that in February 2012, Ahtisaari went to meet with envoys from the five permanent member states of the Security Council in the United Nations premises.

The report quoted Ahtisaari as saying: “The most intriguing was the meeting I had with [Russian Ambassador] Vitaly Churkin because I know this guy. We don’t necessarily agree on many issues but we can talk candidly. I explained what I was doing there and he said: ‘Martti, sit down and I’ll tell you what we should do.’”

“He said three things; One: we should not give arms to the opposition. Two: we should get a dialogue going between the opposition and Assad straight away. Three: we should find an elegant way for Assad to step aside.”

He told the Guardian that he believes that the reason why the US, UK and France ignored Russia’s proposal is that “all these, and many others, were convinced that Assad would be thrown out of office in a few weeks so there was no need to do anything.”

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