Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime is “still solid,” according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who also serves as Moscow’s special envoy for Middle East affairs.

In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Bogdanov said that, while he could not attest to Assad’s sincerity, the Syrian leader told Russia that he would be willing to step down if he was defeated in an election.

“He clearly told us that if the people didn’t want him, and if they chose a different leader in an election, he would go,” Bogdanov said.

Bogdanov met with a group of Syrian dissidents in Paris before his interview with the newspaper. He told Le Figaro that “the regime is still solid. It is getting important support from the population,” although he added that the support is not based on the people’s love of Assad, but rather it is motivated by the fear of whom his replacement might be.

Moscow is still hoping to reach a diplomatic solution, according to Bogdanov, if the UN Security Council endorses the agreement that would install a transitional governing authority in Damascus, as was brokered by former special UN envoy, Kofi Annan.