* Putin said new ideas emerged at talks in Turkey
* Spokesman says unclear whether ideas acceptable to Syrians
* Russia says it opposes forced removal of Assad
By Alexei Anishchuk
ASHGABAT, Dec 5 Russian and Turkish diplomats
will soon start working on new ideas for ending the conflict in
Syria which emerged in talks between President Vladimir Putin
and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, the Kremlin said on
Putin and Erdogan agreed to differ on Syria at Monday's
talks in Istanbul but Russia has distanced itself from President
Bashar al-Assad and tried to position itself for his potential
exit from power.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed diplomats would
discuss what Putin said were "some new, fresh ideas" but gave no
"It was agreed that these ideas will be discussed in more
detail by our diplomats in the very near future, in order to
understand how viable they are and how great their potential to
resolve (the Syrian crisis)," Peskov said.
"It is still unclear to what degree they might be acceptable
to the sides in Syria itself," he told reporters on the
sidelines of a summit of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of
Independent States in Turkmenistan's capital, Ashgabat.
Russia has shielded Assad by blocking, along with China,
three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at pushing him out
or pressing him to end violence that has killed more than 40,000
people since a crackdown on protests began in March 2011.
Turkey - worried about Syria's chemical weapons, a growing
refugee crisis, and Syrian support for Kurdish militants - has
backed the Syrian opposition and led calls for international
action against Assad.
After talks with Erdogan, Putin said Russia and Turkey still
disagreed about how to end the crisis in Syria.
Russian officials have repeatedly said Moscow is not
insisting Assad remain in power, but that his fate must not be
decided by foreign governments or other external forces,
including the U.N. Security Council.
"The exit or the continuation of the Assad regime is
absolutely not a must," Peskov said.
"But we cannot say, sitting in Ankara or London or Qatar,
that Assad must go. That cannot be, it is not viable - such
decisions could potentially lead to a worsening of the
situation," he said.
Putin, who returned to the presidency in May, has made Syria
a showcase of what he says is the determination to protect the
principle of non-intervention in sovereign states.
Russia has warned the West it would not allow a repeat in
Syria of last year's events in Libya, where NATO military
intervention helped rebels to topple dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
But the talk of considering fresh ideas suggested Russia is
looking for ways to end the diplomatic deadlock or at least cast
itself as part of a solution, and position itself for the
possibility of Assad's exit.
"Russians are now looking beyond Assad," said Dmitry Trenin,
director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think-tank.
"I don't think they will change their position on the basic
issues such as 'regime change' or outside intervention but I
think they will be looking at the day after, what happens when
the government falls," he said.
Putin's Middle East affairs envoy, Mikhail Bogdanov, met the
U.S. ambassador to Moscow at the request of the United States on
Tuesday and the British ambassador on Wednesday, Russian's
Foreign Ministry said. The focus was on Syria and the
Israeli-Palestinian situation but details were not announced.
Russia has stepped up meetings with Syrian opposition
groups, seemingly hedging its bets.
"I would not rule out that behind the scenes, (Russia) could
be trying to find a way to solve 'the Assad problem'," a Western
That could be easier said than done.
"Russia's influence over Assad has been widely exaggerated,"
Trenin said. "The Russians have very unfortunately manoeuvred
themselves into a situation in which they are considered to be
responsible for Assad without any real influence over him."