Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, in an interview published Monday, said his country would consider granting asylum to his embattled Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.
“Any person that requests asylum in Ecuador, obviously we are going to consider as a human being whose basic rights we have to respect,” he told the daily Folha de Sao Paulo.
He confirmed that Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad visited Quito two weeks ago but denied Israeli press reports that a possible asylum for Assad and his family was discussed during the visit.
“These conversations did not take place,” he said in the interview conducted in Brasilia Friday ahead of the summit of the Mercosur regional trade bloc.
Correa said Mekdad came to Quito to thank Ecuador for its “objective stance” on the Syrian civil war.
“Ecuador will never favor violence…Can we believe all those news stories on violence, the dictator? Let’s remember what was said about Iraq,” he added.
Last week, Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino denied that Assad had been offered asylum.
“Totally denied,” Patino said on his Twitter account. “No Syrian citizen has requested asylum in Ecuador, much less its current president.”
Assad has so far rebuffed international pressure to step down, but fighting has intensified around Damascus amid a brutal civil war that human rights monitors estimate has claimed at least 42,000 lives.