Russia's differences with the West on Syria are not as great as they appear, as both agree on the need to prevent civil war, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview published Monday.
Russia has repeatedly vetoed UN Security Council action against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but Medvedev told The Times newspaper it was unclear what kind of role Assad would have in any future political set-up.
"Despite differences in emphasis, the positions of Russia, the US and Britain are not as sharply different as sometimes suggested," Medvedev, who was in London for the Olympics, told the Times.
"We all start from the position that the worst outcome would be a full civil war in Syria," he said.
Russia has, along with China, so far protected its Soviet-era ally from UN sanctions but Moscow insists that it has an even-handed approach to the crisis, while rebuking the West for siding with the rebels.
Medvedev said Syrians themselves had to decide their own future and repeated President Vladimir Putin's criticism of the NATO intervention in Libya last year.
"I don't know how exactly the political balance will look in the future, and what sort of position Assad would have in it," he said.
"That must be decided by the Syrian people. Our partners are urging us to support more decisive action. But then the question arises: where do resolutions end and military actions begin?"
Syrian forces and rebels on Monday clashed violently in and around Aleppo before dawn on Monday as the battle for control of the northern city raged into a third day, sending some 200,000 civilians fleeing.
Medvedev meanwhile praised U.S. President Barack Obama for helping Russia enter the World Trade Organization, saying that he "keeps his word."
He also refused to rule out running for a second term as president, having given way last year to Putin.
"I'm still a young man. I've not ruled out running again if people are interested," he said.
[image via Agence France-Presse]