Russian officials have denied any agreement to offer asylum to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after his government falls. "We have said more than once publicly that we are not even thinking about this," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Reuters on Saturday. "There is no agreement, no thought about this issue."
Lavrov spoke with reporters while on a flight back to Moscow. Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Japan's foreign minister in the black sea resort town of Sochi.
Lavrov emphasised that Russia does not have a special relationship with Syria, calling reports that his government is propping up Assad a "provocation" and suggested its better friends are in the West.
"We are not and have not been the closest friends of the Syrian regime. Its best friends are in Europe, and if somebody wants to resolve this issue in such a way, let them think about their capabilities."
French President Francois Hollande also told Reuters on Saturday that he would renew efforts to convince Russia and China to support stronger sanctions against Syria aimed at pressuring Assad to leave power. Russia and China vetoed a third United Nations security council resolution earlier this month that would have imposed tough new sanctions on Syria.
The UN security council has so far been ineffective in stopping the bloodshed in Syria. Hollande stressed that there would be "would be chaos and civil war" if Assad continues to hold power and said he will continue to address the issue with China and Russia.
"The regime of Bashar al-Assad knows it is doomed and so it will use force until the very end," Hollande told Reuters . "The role of the member states of the U.N. Security Council is to step in as quickly as possible."