Assad made “grave error” over reforms, Medvedev says

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a "grave, perhaps fatal error" by delaying political reforms, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said Sunday.


"He should have acted much more quickly and reached out to the peaceful opposition which was ready to sit at the negotiating table with him," Russian news agencies quoted Medvedev as saying.


"It's a grave error on his part, perhaps fatal," he said, in a rare criticism of Assad by Syria's traditional ally Moscow.


"It seems to me that his chances of staying [in power] are shrinking day by day," Medvedev said in remarks to CNN television on the sidelines of the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland.


He reiterated Russia's position that only the Syrian people can decide the fate of Assad, whose departure the West has long called for in the face of the near two-year long conflict in Syria.


"I repeat once again: It is for the Syrian people to decide. Not Russia or the United States or any other country."


Moscow has long opposed any foreign intervention in the conflict that the United Nations says has killed at least 60,000 people since March 2011.