Putin told Assad he’d have to step down — officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin posed an ultimatum to his embattled Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, warning him, during a meeting between the two men in Moscow on October 20, that he would have to abdicate his presidential powers and make way for a temporary government in Syria in the coming months, senior Israeli officials tell The Times of Israel.

The officials say that despite the red carpet that was laid out for Assad – it was the first time he exited Syria since the start of the civil war that has ravaged his country since 2011 – he received a markedly chilly reception.

Putin also demanded that Assad and his associates enter negotiations with moderate elements in Syria toward instituting a temporary government that would stay in place for about a year and a half – until general elections could be held, the officials say. Otherwise, Putin reportedly warned, Russia would withdraw its support from Assad.

The meeting preceded the talks that have been held in recent days in Vienna between representatives of Arab and Western states toward a possible political solution for war-torn Syria.

— Avi Issacharoff

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