US President Barack Obama will press Russian President Vladimir Putin to
accept a proposal by which embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad would
cede power through a negotiated political settlement, The New York Times reported on Sunday, citing Obama administration officials.
has been Assad's staunchest ally as world opinion has turned against
the Syrian leader in the face of his bloody crackdown on dissenters
which began some 15 months ago and has resulted in the deaths of more
than 9,000 people. In the latest episode garnering international
condemnation, more than 90 people were killed in artillery shelling of the central town of Houla, including some 30 children on Friday.
Obama pointed to the Yemen model of political transition at last weekend's meeting of G8 leaders at Camp David.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh ruled the poor Gulf nation for 33
years and was eventually unseated after an uprising against him last
year that split the country's armed forces into warring factions.
was granted immunity from prosecution over the killing of protesters as
part of a power transfer deal that eased him out of office. Many
Yemenis believe Saleh ought to have been put on trial; rights groups say
hundreds of protesters were killed by his security forces in the
Alone among the G8 powers, Russia has supported Assad and opposed stiffer UN sanctions.
may like or dislike the Syrian government, some may have different
views on the last election which took place in Syria but one cannot
avoid a question - if Assad goes, who will replace him?" said Mikhail
Margelov, a Russian parliamentarian and aide to Prime Minister Dmitry
"We believe that the Syrian crisis can not be dealt with an axe, one should work on it with a pair of pincers," he said.
The Times quoted US officials as saying Medvedev appeared receptive to the idea of a Yemen-style transition at the G8 meeting.
raised the example of Mubarak in a cage,” a senior US official said,
referring to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's being jailed and
put on trial following his February 2011 ouster. The official said Obama
had then “countered with Yemen, and the indication was, yes, this was
something we could talk about.”
According to the report, the US
will seek to assure the Russians that Moscow would maintain close ties
with Damascus after Assad hands over power. “Look, we recognize that
Russia wants to have a continued influence in Syria...Our interest is in
stabilizing the situation, not eliminating Russian influence,” the Times quoted a US official as saying.
Reuters contributed to this report.