Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Russia urges Syria to pursue dialogue

CONFLICT:Diplomats from Russia, the US and the UN/Arab League are expected to hold a meeting next month to find a political solution to end the bloodshed in Syria

Reuters, MOSCOW

Russia yesterday urged the Syrian government to act on its stated readiness for dialogue with its opponents, throwing its weight behind a diplomatic push to end a 21-month-old conflict in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had urged Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad to emphasize his government’s openness to dialogue with the opposition during talks in Moscow on Thursday.

“We actively encouraged ... the Syrian leadership to make as concrete as possible its declared readiness for dialogue with the opposition,” Lavrov told reporters after talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Mohamed Kamel Amr, in Moscow.

He said the Syrian government should stress its readiness for talks on the widest possible range of matters, in line with an international agreement in Geneva in June calling for a transitional government.

“I think a realistic and detailed assessment of the situation inside Syria will prompt reasonable opposition members to seek ways to start a political dialogue,” said Lavrov, who last week said that neither side would win by force.

Russia expects to meet a senior US diplomat on Syria next month to discuss with Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint special representative of the UN and the Arab League, his plans to end the civil war there, the Kremlin’s envoy to the region said earlier yesterday.

Brahimi is to visit Moscow today for talks on the results of his negotiations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents during a five-day trip to Damascus in which he called for political change to end the bloodshed.

“We will listen to what Lakhdar Brahimi has to say about the situation in Syria and after that, probably, there will be a decision to hold a new meeting of the ‘three Bs,’” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the RIA news agency — in a word play on the first letter of the diplomats’ last names.

Bogdanov, US Undersecretary of State William Burns and Brahimi agreed that a political solution to the crisis was necessary and possible in talks earlier this month.

Bogdanov, the Kremlin’s special envoy for Middle East Affairs, said the three would meet again next month after the holiday period.

Russia has also invited the head of the internationally recognized opposition Syrian National Council, Moaz al-Khatib, to talks, he said, in comments that appeared to underline Moscow’s commitment to helping Brahimi seek a way out of the crisis.

World powers believe Russia, which has given al-Assad military and diplomatic aid during the uprising, has the ear of Syria’s government and must be a central player in any peace talks.

Moscow has tried to distance itself from al-Assad in recent months and has denied it is not propping him up, but maintains that al-Assad’s exit cannot be a precondition for talks and has repeatedly said Western powers should not impose solutions on Syria.

Lavrov warned on Thursday that time was running out to find a peaceful solution to the conflict and halt a descent into “bloody chaos.”

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