Saudi sources have revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin has informed Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz that Moscow is ready to stop its support for Bashar Assad and accept an interim replacement for president if the Syrian opposition suggests an alternative to protect the interests of Russia and minorities.
The sources revealed that Moscow wants an Alawite alternative to Assad, a figure that has the opposition's trust on the one hand, but also reassures minorities on the other.
The sources added that Alawite community leaders have also expressed to the Russians their willingness to give up Assad and accelerate efforts to remove him if guarantees were made to assure their safety and prevent exposure to attacks from militant groups such the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and the Nusra Front. They also want assurances that they will not be the targets of prejudice and that they will be able to maintain their jobs, properties, political and civil rights.
The sources said that Putin had assured King Abdullah that Russia believes Assad is finished and that the solution to the crisis lies with the opposition taking on the task of managing the country, but insist that an Alawite figure should head the army and security.
The sources pointed out that the Russian president also assured the Saudi king that this initiative has the American support, and it will be the focus of the solution at the Geneva II talks. They asked him to help push the opposition to adopt this initiative to make the conference succeed and to accelerate the immediate start of the transitional phase.
The same sources said King Abdullah responded positively and promised that Saudi Arabia will support the Russian plan.
Putin phoned King Abdullah on Thursday, and afterwards the Kremlin confirmed that Saudi monarch expressed his willingness to assist in holding the Geneva II conference.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer