Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has criticized France's support for Syria's opposition, calling the decision “unacceptable.”
Speaking to reporters ahead of a visit to France on Monday, he said the move to recognize the new opposition coalition as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Syrian people amounted to “regime change.”
“What will be the fate of the Assad regime and Mr. Assad's personal fate? It's up to the Syrian people to decide. Let this be decided, among others, by the opposition forces as well. It's advisable that they should come to power via a legal procedure, not as a result of being supplied with arms by some other country. Therefore, the desire to influence another county's government by recognizing some political force as the sole bearer of its sovereignty doesn't seem to me entirely civilized.”
France was among the first to recognize Syria's newly formed opposition coalition. Moscow has been criticized for its continued refusal to support any foreign intervention in the Syrian conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives in the past 20 months.
Mr. Medvedev also defended new laws passed by his government that critics have described as a crackdown on dissent.
“Our civil society has changed, it has become more active, authorities have to consider it, authorities have to react to it. Everyone has to obey the law, including those who don't like the authorities and are discontent with the line offered by the authorities, president, premier, or a party. But the authorities have to change too, because if it is wise enough, if it wants to keep influence the situation, then it has to correspond to the level of development of the civil society.”
The prime minister also said he is not ruling out a return to the Russian presidency. Mr. Medvedev stepped down in May after serving one term as president, making room for Vladimir Putin to return to the Kremlin.
“If I'll have enough strength and health and our people will trust me with this kind of job on the future, then I don't rule out this turn of events. But this depends on the whole bunch of factors. I have once said – one should never refuse anything because you know one should never say never, especially since I already stepped into this water once and this is that kind of water where you can step into twice.”
Mr. Medvedev swapped jobs with Mr. Putin, who until his inauguration in May was prime minister for four years. The job swap angered many Russians and sparked protests against the men's grip on power.
Mr. Putin was elected to a third presidential term in March with 64 percent of the vote. He served as president from 2000 to 2008, but term limits prevented him from running for a third consecutive term. He then became prime minister under Mr. Medvedev.