MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a strong warning Wednesday against inciting violent regime change in the Middle East — an apparent rebuke to Western calls for an end to Syrian President Bashar Assad's rule.
Putin said the international community should operate as a united front to soothe the tensions in the Mideast and claimed that a bloody regime change would only fuel further unrest.
"Violence only begets violence," Putin said in a speech to foreign diplomats in Moscow.
The statement appeared to again pit Putin against President Barack Obama, who used his speech at the U.N. General Assembly this week to call for an end to the Assad regime over its violent crackdown on an uprising that began in March 2011.
Speaking about the rising violence in Syria, Obama said Tuesday that "the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people."
"Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision," Obama said.
As frustration deepens at the ongoing failure of U.N.-led measures to reach a solution on Syria, officials from a coalition including the United States, the European Union and the Arab League met in the Netherlands last week to devise new ways of isolating the Assad regime.
But Putin said Wednesday that attempts to circumvent U.N.-led diplomatic efforts would prove destructive.
"Such action is fraught with potential for destabilization and chaos," Putin said. "Life has recently given us proof that this is correct. It is time for us to draw lessons from what is happening."
Activists estimate that at least 30,000 people have been killed since the Syrian revolt began and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, many fleeing to neighboring countries such as Turkey and Jordan.
In his speech, Putin also called for joint international efforts to counter terrorist threats across a number of Middle East nations, including Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, and Afghanistan.
"There can be no room for double standards. Terrorists should be given a hard and unanimous rebuff," he said.