Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday articulated his plan for a peaceful settlement to the civil conflict in Syria.

“We believe that the course of action should be as follows: ending violence, conducting negotiations, searching for a solution, laying down a constitutional basis for the future society, and only then introducing structural changes, not vice versa. The other way around there would only be chaos,” Putin said at a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.

If incumbent President Bashar Assad is removed from power unconstitutionally, the civil war in the country would be “endless,” Putin added.

The Russian president said Syria’s future should be decided “not by a military victory or defeat of one of the sides, but by negotiations, on the basis of compromise and agreements reached.”

“Our stance is well known: the first thing that should be done is to ensure that… both the government and the armed opposition cease violence and engage in negotiations,” he said.

Monti said that a feasible option for Syria, in his opinion, is the “Lebanese scenario,” first applied after the 2005 assassination of a Lebanese tycoon and leading political figure Rafic Hariri.

“I mean creating a transitional government to include all parts of the Syrian society,” the Italian premier said.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France – agreed on June 30 in Geneva that a transitional government should be set up in Syria. The text of the document said this could include members of the government and opposition, although Russia later objected to U.S. suggestions that the deal ruled out any role for Assad.

Last week Russia withdrew its draft resolution on Syria, which backed UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan’ six-point peace plan and, together with China, vetoed a Western-backed draft over fears that it could lead to foreign military intervention in the violence-wracked Middle Eastern country.

Up to 17,000 people have been killed in clashes between Assad troops and opposition fighters since the beginning of the Syrian conflict 17 months ago, according to UN estimates based on accounts provided by Syrian activists.