President Hollande is even more hostile to Assad
than his foreign minister, having declared: "Nothing must be done to bolster Bashar al-Assad
, who is the problem, and cannot therefore be the solution" - referring to the new series of Vienna talks begun on Oct.
There was no agreement on the key issue, whether Assad
would be compelled to leave power as part of a transition to a new Syrian government.
VIENNA: The United States, Russia, Iran and more than a dozen other nations agreed Friday to launch a new peace effort involving Syria's government and opposition groups, but carefully avoided any determination on when President Bashar Assad
might leave power -- perhaps the most intractable dispute of the conflict.
In this light, Assad
's recent visit to Moscow, even as Russia reaffirmed the importance of a political settlement to the crippling war, is designed to showcase their commitment that they will not relinquish Assad
as part of any transitional government as the West and most of the regional powers demand.
Moscow is a key foreign ally for Assad
, and Russia's foreign minister said in comments aired on Russian TV on Saturday that the Kremlin wanted Syria to prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections.
was making his first overseas trip since civil war erupted in his country in 2011, with an estimated 340,000 people killed so far.
Recent statements from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoy-an and several other European leaders seemed to indicate that Putin's new strategy to keep Assad
in place might work.
5m-strong Alawite community in Syria is opposed to the Assad
seeks to send a message to his opponents - whether within Syria or without - that the three years of war has not demoralized his regime.
The dominant wisdom has been that Iran has thrown its full weight behind Assad
and that it would not abandon this ally because Assad
guarantees Iran's strategic interests in the Levant.
formally submitted his nomination to Syria's constitutional court to stand in an election which his Western and Arab foes have dismissed as a parody of democracy amid the turmoil of Syria's civil war.
Summary: Eleven core members of so-called Friends of Syria urge Assad
instead to embrace plan outlined in Geneva talks.