Picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad riddled with holes on the Aleppo police academy, after capture by Free Syrian Army fighters, March 4, 2013.  REUTERS/Mahmoud Hassano

MOSCOW – After marathon meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry here Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hinted that Moscow may finally pressure Syrian President Bashir al-Assad to leave office.

“We are not interested in the fate of certain individuals,” Lavrov said at a late night news conference. “We are interested in the fate of the Syrian people.”

Lavrov and Kerry announced that they would host an international conference where Syrian government officials and rebels will be given a chance to name an interim government. The odds of the two sides agreeing are low but Kerry deserves credit for securing a small diplomatic step forward here.

The problem is that Lavrov and his boss – President Vladimir Putin – may be unable to deliver on Assad. For nearly two years, Lavrov and Putin have served as the Syrian leaders’ chief diplomatic ally but Iran has provided far more military support. Russian analysts say Washington is kidding itself if it believes Putin can orchestrate a quick and easy Assad exit.