MOSCOW - Russia on Thursday issued a rare criticism of its ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying statements that he wanted to run in presidential elections in 2014 risked harming the atmosphere ahead of peace talks.
"Exchanging such rhetorical statements just makes the atmosphere heavier and does not make the situation calmer," Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the Interfax news agency in an interview.
Bogdanov said Assad and all parties in Syria should steer clear of stoking tensions ahead of peace talks planned to take place in Switzerland in January aimed at ending the conflict.
"We believe that ahead of the peace talks there should be no statements which someone may not like and can cause emotions and a reaction in response," he added.
It was not immediately clear to which recent statement by Assad he was referring. But the Syrian regime has repeatedly said that Assad would run in the 2014 polls.
Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said this month that Assad will remain president and lead any transition agreed in the peace talks.
Assad himself said in a television interview in October: "I don't see any reason why I shouldn't run in the next election."