Russia unlikely to have made deal with US on Assad: Analyst

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on March 30, 2016 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaking to a journalist during an interview with Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency in the Syrian capital, Damascus. (Photo by AFP)

Press TV has conducted an interview with Fred Weir, a journalist and political commentator, about claims that Moscow has reached a deal with Washington on the political future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s denial of the allegations.

The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: How do you feel about this Russian denial?

Weir: Well, it’s also the United States which is denying it. So, it seems that, at least, there’s blanket denial of it.

And we don’t know; there has been intensive contact between the United States and Russia over the past few weeks specially; John Kerry was here in Moscow last week, where he met Putin and the foreign minister, Lavrov. They had a lot of discussions.

And we only know what they say when they come out and face the press and tell us what they’re prepared to say; so, one can only speculate against a report like that, but it doesn’t seem like the Russian playbook. They have said over and over again they’re not married to Assad and that in the fullness of time as a political process goes on in Syria, Assad may go; but they have insisted that that should happen in the scope of a political process that is Syrian, a process by which Syrians decide what their government would be.

And you see a lot of progress there. The Syrian government has already started announcing that it was to form a unity government. There’s a lot of progress.

So, I don’t think that the Russians would have agreed on some kind of end-game like that. It’s somebody’s… it may be disinformation or somebody’s garbled report. But I think it’s way too early, in fact, according to the Russian playbook, to discuss the final disposition of Bashar al-Assad.

Press TV: From day one, Mr. Weir, since Russia got involved in Syria, there’s been a propaganda war obviously taking place, so I’m wondering, could this be seen in that context as a pressure tactic maybe?

Weir: Well, I think so. I think that when you look at these wars today in Ukraine and Syria, an enormous amount of disinformation gets generated, and because we have social media and so many ways to put it up there, you just get a lot of stuff and when you chase these stories down and you try to fact-check them, they turn to dust. So, it’s clear that there are people with clear agendas out there who have access to the means of disseminating information like… as never existed before in history and people are taking advantage of that. You really have to take anything you hear with a grain of salt.

Press TV: And of course, Russia says it would never speak to a third country about another country’s sovereign issues and internal issues. How important of a Russian policy is that and certainly I would imagine that the Western policy does not really meet those standards?

Weir: Well, I don’t know. I think the Russians are capable of diplomacy on all levels; but we also know that the Americans have drawn this line around Assad, who may say he must go. It’s almost like their final face-saving measure. They have given up almost everything else. The Syrian regime can stay, but Assad must go and that would be the American position.

So, I just don’t know. But I really don’t think that the Russians, certainly not at this stage of negotiations, would have decided on an exit plan for Assad.

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