MOSCOW - Russia refuses to act as an intermediary trying to talk Syrian President Bashar Assad into fleeing, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in comments released on Friday.
Russia is at loggerheads with the West and some Arab states who accuse Moscow of shielding Assad, a long-term buyer of Russian arms, in the Syrian conflict that has already claimed more than 40,000 lives since it erupted in March 2011.
"We are not in the business of regime change. Some of the regional players were suggesting to us 'Why don't you tell President Assad to leave? We will arrange for some safe haven for him'," Russia's veteran Foreign Minister told the state-owned Russia Today English-language TV channel in an interview.
"My answer is very simple: if indeed those who suggested this to us have this in mind, they should take it directly to President Assad. Why should they use us as a postman? If President Assad is interested, this must be discussed directly with him," he said in comments recorded on Wednesday.