MOSCOW, July 15. /TASS/. The Kremlin has not confirmed the interpretation of words of Russian President Vladimir Putin about Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad by US President Barack Obama. "In our statement concerning the telephone conversation we said everything we felt it was necessary to say about the results of this telephone conversation," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday, commenting at their request on Obama’s interview to the New York Times published on Tuesday.
Obama said he was "encouraged by the fact that Mr. Putin called him a couple of weeks ago and initiated the call to talk about Syria." "I think they get a sense that the Assad regime is losing a grip over greater and greater swaths of territory inside of Syria [to Sunni jihadist militias] and that the prospects for a [Sunni jihadist] takeover or rout of the Syrian regime is not imminent but becomes a greater and greater threat by the day. That offers us an opportunity to have a serious conversation with them," he added.
The two presidents held a telephone conversation on June 26. On that day Peskov said that the two leaders had paid special attention to combating terrorism. "Considerable attention was paid to an array of issues related to the fight against terrorism, especially with the spread of the influence of the Islamic State group in the Middle East," Peskov noted. "Putin and Obama agreed to instruct [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov and [US Secretary of State John] Kerry to hold a meeting to discuss the issue," he said. They also discussed the Ukrainian issue, Peskov added.
On July 7, Peskov said that the Russian president, during a telephone conversation with Obama, had reiterated Russia’s stance on the settlement in Syria with the participation of Assad. "The two leaders indeed exchanged views on the issue. The Russian stance is well-known, and it was reiterated by the [Russian] president during this conversation," Peskov said, answering a question from a TASS correspondent concerning the prospects of the settlement in Syria.
The Russian president earlier said that that only the Syrian people had the right to call on Assad to step down. He noted that Russia’s stance to support the incumbent Syrian president was based on the apprehension that otherwise the situation in the country could repeat the Libyan or Iraqi scenario. "We believe that this is the correct position, and it would be difficult to expect from us something else, except for the support for the legitimate government," the Russian leader told the St.Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 19.
Meanwhile, presidential aide Yury Ushakov has said that, according to Moscow, "the current leadership of Syria is one of the real and effective forces confronting Islamic State."