Russian ambassador to France Aleksandr Orlov has said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is ready to step down but ‘in civilized manner,’ but the claims were dismissed by the Syrian state television as “baseless.”
The Russian diplomat said that during a meeting in Geneva by the Syria Action Group on June 30, a final communiqué provided for a transition to a more democratic regime was “accepted by Assad.” ‘He agreed to leave. But from a civilized way,” Orlov said.
Orlov’s statement came after opposition fighters announced their control of the country’s border posts with Turkey and Iraq and following brazen killing of three top security officials in the capital.
Al-Manar television has reported that Syrian national security chief Hisham Bakhtiar has died of wounds he sustained in the explosion that killed the top security officials on Wednesday.
On Friday, Syrian military forces claimed to have “cleaned” the Midan area of Damascus of “terrorists,” state television said early on Friday.
“Our brave army forces have completely cleaned the area of Midan in Damascus of the remaining mercenary terrorists and have reestablished security,” the broadcaster said.
The reports could not be confirmed. The Syrian government restricts access by international journalists. Activists in Damascus said rebels were now in control of the capital’s northern Barzeh district, where troops and armored vehicles had pulled out.
The army had also pulled out of the towns of Tel and Dumair north of Damascus after taking heavy losses, they said. But they said troops were hitting the western district of Mezzeh with heavy machineguns and anti-aircraft guns overnight.
A resident who toured much of Damascus late on Thursday said he saw signs the government’s presence was diminishing, with only sporadic checkpoints and tanks in place in some areas. The Interior Ministry at the main Marjeh Square had a fraction of its usual contingent of guards still in place.
Shelling could be heard on the southwestern suburb of Mouadamiyeh from hills overlooking the city where the Fourth Division, commanded by Assad’s brother Maher, is based, he said.
Syrian television showed the bodies of about 20 men in T-shirts and jeans with weapons lying at their sides, sprawled across a road in the capital’s Qaboun district. It described them as terrorists killed in battle.
On Thursday, the rebel Free Syrian Army controlled at least two border crossings into Turkey at Bab al-Hawa and Jarablus and one border crossing with Iraq.