Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (R) takes part in an interview with CNN news channel in Davos January 23, 2013. Mr. Medvedev said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chances of retaining power are getting "smaller and smaller" every day, according to the transcript of the interview released by Mr. Medvedev's office on Sunday. Picture taken January 23, 2013.

RIA Novosti/Reuters

Russia said the chances of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad staying in power were growing "smaller and smaller", as fighting on Sunday in southwestern Damascus shut a main highway from the capital.

Mr. al-Assad has long counted Moscow as an ally and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's remarks were the most vocal Russian statement yet that his days may now be numbered, although they come after predictions from France, an avowed enemy, and from neighbouring Jordan that the Syrian president's downfall is not imminent.

"I think that with every day, every week and every month, the chances of his preservation are getting smaller and smaller," Mr. Medvedev said, according to the transcript of an interview in Russian with CNN that was released by his office.

Story continues below advertisement

"But I repeat again, this must be decided by the Syrian people. Not Russia, not the United States, nor any other country," said Mr. Medvedev, whose administration has criticized Western, Turkish and Gulf Arab support for Syria's rebels.

"The task for the United States, the Europeans and regional powers ... is to sit the parties down for negotiations, and not just demand that Assad go and then be executed like Gadhafi or be carried to court sessions on a stretcher like Hosni Mubarak."

After Egypt's veteran president Hosni Mubarak was toppled, Russia withheld its veto on a UN Security Council resolution authorizing Western and Arab powers to provide military help to the rebels who overthrew Moammar Gadhafi in neighbouring Libya.

Moscow has since accused the West of breaching sovereign rights and has vetoed UN action against Mr. al-Assad. Mr. Medvedev warned that removing Mr. al-Assad by force would mean "decades" of civil war.

Russia has been Mr. al-Assad's most important ally throughout the 22-month-old Syrian conflict, which began with peaceful street protests and evolved into an armed uprising against his rule.

Moscow has blocked three Security Council resolutions aimed at pushing him out or pressuring him to end the bloodshed which has killed more than 60,000 people. But Russia has also distanced itself from Mr. al-Assad by saying it is not trying to prop him up and will not offer him asylum.

The mainly Sunni Muslim rebels have seized territory in the north of the country, including several border crossings, and have challenged Mr. al-Assad's control over Syria's main cities.

Story continues below advertisement

But Mr. al-Assad's air power and army, whose senior ranks are dominated by his Alawite minority, have stemmed rebel advances.

France said on Thursday there was no sign Mr. al-Assad was about to be overthrown, reversing previous statements that he could not hold out long, and Jordan's King Abdullah said Mr. al-Assad would consolidate his grip for now.

"Anybody who is saying the regime of Bashar has got weeks to live really doesn't know the reality on the ground," Abdullah said in Davos on Friday. "They still have capability, so I give them a strong shot at least for the first half of 2013."

Activists said rebels clashed with forces loyal to Mr. al-Assad in southwestern Damascus on Sunday, seizing a railway station and forcing the closure of the main highway to Deraa in the south.

Footage posted on the Internet showed what activists said was a rebel attack on the station in Qadam district. One clip showed gunmen taking cover as gunfire could be heard. Another showed gunmen inspecting buildings by the track after what the narrator describes as the "liberation" of the station.

Another video showed black smoke billowing above concrete buildings, the result of what activists said was an air strike by Mr. al-Assad's air force near the railway terminal.

Story continues below advertisement

Syrian media did not comment on the fighting around Qadam and restrictions on independent media make it difficult to verify reports from activists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based opposition group which monitors the violence in Syria, said jets and artillery also struck targets in rebel strongholds to the east and south of the capital after fierce clashes there.

The fighting came as United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos visited Syria ahead of a UN aid conference in Kuwait which aims to raise $1.5-billion (U.S.) for millions of people made homeless, hungry and vulnerable by the conflict.

On Wednesday, Ms. Amos said Syrians were "paying a terrible price" for the failure of world powers to resolve the conflict, pointing to 650,000 refugees who have fled the country and the millions affected inside Syria.

"Four million people need help, two million are internally displaced and 400,000 out of 500,000 Palestinian refugees have been affected," she told an economic forum in Switzerland.

The United Nations and aid groups inside Syria, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, could not keep pace with the rising number of people in need, she said.

Story continues below advertisement

"We must find ways to reach more people, especially in the areas we are still unable to get to, and where there is ongoing fighting," she said.

Last month, the United Nations withdrew 25 of its 100 foreign aid workers from Syria as fighting intensified around Damascus, but Amos said it remained committed to maintaining aid work.

Most of the money from the Kuwait conference will go to support neighbouring countries hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees, while $519-million is earmarked for aid inside Syria.

The fighting has alarmed neighbouring Israel, where Vice-Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said that any sign that Syria's grip on its chemical weapons was slipping could trigger Israeli military strikes.

Should Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas or Syrian rebels obtain Syria's chemical weapons, "it would dramatically change the capabilities of those organisations," Mr. Shalom said.

Such a development would be "a crossing of all red lines that would require a different approach, including even preventive operations," he told Israel's Army Radio.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. al-Assad has vowed to defeat rebels he describes as terrorists. In a speech three weeks ago he repeated his readiness for a national dialogue, but ruled out talking to "extremists who don't believe in any language but killing and terrorism."

State television said on Sunday that Syria's highest judicial council had suspended legal cases against Syrian opposition members so they can take part in talks – a proposal roundly rejected by most of Mr. al-Assad's opponents.

Mr. Medvedev said Mr. al-Assad did not appear to be ready for a negotiated solution to the crisis.

"He should have done everything much faster, attracting part of the moderate opposition, which was ready to sit at the table with him, to his side," the Russian premier said. "This was his significant mistake, and possibly a fatal one."

But he also warned of consequences if Mr. al-Assad is thrown out by force. He said: "Then the civil war will last for decades."

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies