“You know I believe that it is premature to discuss this,” Putin said in the second half of a two-part interview with German mass circulation daily Bild.
“We gave asylum to Mr Snowden, it was more difficult than giving it to Assad,” he said, referring to fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, granted asylum in Russia in 2013.
“First one needs to give the Syrian people an opportunity to have their say,” Putin said, according to a Russian-language transcript of the interview published by the Kremlin.
“And I assure you that if this is done in a democratic way, then maybe he won’t have to go anywhere. And it does not matter whether he is president or not.”
Global powers are seeking to push the Syrian regime and opposition to the negotiating table in a bid to end the nearly five-year war that has killed 260,000 people.
A UN-backed plan foresees talks between the different sides starting on January 25, the establishment of a transitional government within six months and elections within 18 months.