MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that neither side would win the civil war in Syria, and that China and Russia would be unable to persuade President Bashar Assad to quit if they tried.
Russia has been rowing back after the Kremlin's Middle East envoy was quoted as saying earlier this month that the rebels could defeat Assad's government and that Russia was preparing for a possible evacuation of its nationals, the strongest signs yet that Russia is positioning itself for a post-Assad Syria.
"Listen, no one is going to win this war," Lavrov told reporters aboard a government plane en route to Moscow from the Russia-EU summit in Brussels. "Assad is not going anywhere, no matter what anyone says, be it China or Russia," he added.
Lavrov repeated that Russia had rejected requests from countries in the region to pressure Assad to go or offer him safe haven, and that his exit might lead to an upsurge in fighting.
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