News / Middle East

Russia Urges Syria to Dialogue with Opposition

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr (not pictured) in Moscow, December 28, 2012.Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr (not pictured) in Moscow, December 28, 2012.
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Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr (not pictured) in Moscow, December 28, 2012.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr (not pictured) in Moscow, December 28, 2012.
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— Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday urged Syria’s deputy foreign minister to engage in talks with the opposition in an attempt to end more than 21 months of civil war in Syria.

But an opposition leader responded by slamming Russia while activists showed no interest in talks with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

After talks with his Egyptian counterpart in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin has consistently maintained that dialogue is necessary for progress and peace in Syria.

Lavrov said Russia has actively encouraged the Syrian leadership to show its readiness to talk to the opposition and discuss a wide variety of things agreed to in Geneva in June. The United States and Russia agreed to the Geneva Dialogue that supported talks with both sides of the conflict.

Earlier Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the RIA Novosti news agency Moscow has sent an invitation for talks to the Syrian National Council, the main exiled opposition group recognized by many as the legitimate government of Syria.

Opposition bristles

On Thursday, a spokesman for the Syrian coalition said the group will accept any solution that excludes Mr. Assad and his aides.

Speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, Walid al-Bunni said the Syrian leadership has blood on its hands and must leave the country. Western powers and their Arab allies have backed opposition demands for Mr. Assad's ouster.

Opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib said in an interview Friday on Al Jazeera television, that he had ruled out a trip to Russia and wanted an apology from Moscow for its support of Mr. Assad.

"We have clearly said we will not go to Moscow," he said. "We could meet in an Arab country if there was a clear agenda...We also want an apology from Lavrov because all this time he said that the people will decide their destiny, without foreign intervention. Russia is intervening and meanwhile all these massacres of the Syrian people have happened."

Russia has refused to back three rounds of United Nations resolutions against Mr. Assad’s government. Russian President Vladimir Putin says it is not the job of the U.N. Security Council to force the ouster of any government.

Many analysts see Russia, a long time ally of Syria, as the linchpin when it comes to resolving the conflict.

Russian influence waning

But Masha Lipman, an analyst with the Carnegie Center here in Moscow, said Russia's hold on Syria is waning.

"I think it has lost its influence in Syria," Lipman said. "It has no influence with Assad. Siding with Assad, even with reservations, was a lost cause from the beginning. It was clear that sooner or later his regime would fall and Russia would end up not as an ally with the new Syrian government whatever it is. I don’t think by making these halfway statements now Russia can change that."

International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called this week for an interim government in Syria until new elections can be held. Brahimi is expected to discuss the issue with leaders in Moscow in the coming days.

Meanwhile, opposition activists reported renewed fighting Friday throughout the country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says one civilian was killed and dozens were wounded when government planes bombarded the Assal al-Ward area in Damascus province.

It said fighting also broke out overnight in areas surrounding the capital, as well as close to Syria's border with Jordan.

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by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
December 29, 2012 2:26 PM
The sit of the civ population of Syria day by day gets more horrendous, from the media info the sit is dire. Now that Russia is engaged, the minimal need that exists is to provide for safe humanitarian corridors/ distribution areas for medication/ hospital supplies/food/fuel, to ensure the population, as well as it can be done, is not destroyed/ starved or frozen to death. Hopefully the entire UN, but especially the UNSC, needs to at least engage into saving the lifes of the children, elderly and the civ population on both sides of the conflict. No excuse for either side, including the backers, to not at least agree to save the civ population.

In Response

by: Anonymous
December 30, 2012 11:20 AM
Are you kidding me and the world? Bashar al Assad doesn't care, not at all. Of course the FSA and Civilians would like food, medicine, clothing etc. But Bashar al Assad doesn't want this, he wants to do anything he can to terrorize and disrupt the Syrian population. It is time the Syrian people bear arms and storm Assads hideout at all costs. Cold is coming and deaths will be much higher. I think that putting a much stronger effort to go directly after Bashar would be key, and time/lives better spent. Bashar needs to be pulled out of Syria by the hair or killed whatever is easiest because he has already started the genocide wheel turning.


by: Dave from: USA
December 28, 2012 4:49 PM
Tanks guns can hit long distances...wonder why they are not focused on the palace?

In Response

by: Anonymous
December 31, 2012 6:38 AM
From what I've read, he left the palace on the run, and is currently in hiding. Somewhere in Damascus.


by: Fred-Rick from: California
December 28, 2012 11:14 AM
As usual, Russia plays with just one trump card, plays it badly, and ends up losing. In this case, Russia's influence in Syria goes the way Basher Assad is going. The Russians and their one-party democracy aren't hip to the 21st century.

In Response

by: Plain Mirror from: Plain planet - Africa
December 29, 2012 3:46 AM
Objection to Mouaz al-Khatib demand for apology. Russia hasn't anything to apologise for. Defending the soveriegnty of Syria by veto on any unconstitutional approach and inerference in domestic issues of other nations by the US, France and others shows that Russia respects and upholds the soveriegnty of other nations. How does Mouaz al-Khatib expect Russia to side evil simplely because it wants to please Mouaz al-Khatib, Jihaddists and alkaida fighters who want to rule Syria by all means? Yes Assad has blood in his hands yet it shouldn't be ruled out that Mouaz al-Khatib and his supporters also have their hands stained with the blood of Syria people. If Assad goes, that is for Syria people and if he stays, that is also for Syria people. But no one has to blame external influence on Syria because Syria government and the Syria people opened the way. If Russia is to apologise to Mouaz al-Khatib, then US has to apologise to Assad government and the Syria people for arming rebels, Alkaida and Jihaddist fighters in Syria.

In Response

by: Anonymous
December 28, 2012 4:28 PM
Revolt is a terrible thing but in cases like this it needs to be done. Bashar and his father Hafez have killed over 100,000 people and terrorized millions, detained thousands, tortured thousands (inhumane acts), displaced millions, and the list goes on with brutal tactics. The country is so small & condensed, and the word gets out quick. Syrians want him out ASAP at any cost so they can get on with their daily lives again, and prosper in the future.

In Response

by: Anonymous
December 28, 2012 4:26 PM
You are 100% right. A country is the people, and not a leader. What the people want, goes. A leader can't normally get away with what Bashar Al-Assad has. 90% of all Syrians killed in Syria were killed with Russian ammunition, to top it off. Any friend of Assad is just as bloody/dirty to the Syrians. Lesson for the Russian Government, start making your population like you, don't try and force them.


by: Anonymous from: America
December 28, 2012 11:09 AM
Russia committed regime change to rid the world of the murderous Nazi rule over Germany. Now Russia wants the world to remain silent over the murderous Assad rule over Syria? I don't think so.

In Response

by: Anonymous
December 30, 2012 11:23 AM
Absolutely right, and besides Bashar has lined the pockets with money of the Russian Gov (Putin) for weapons to kill people. Why would the Russians want anyone else in power?

Russia is just as much to blame for this bloody mess (If not even more to blame) than Bashar al Assad. I will be sooooo happy the day Russia stands up against Putin and throws him out of power. No doubt Putin would bomb his own people in a heart beat.

In Response

by: Mike from: Greece
December 28, 2012 11:59 AM
Mr. Anonymous, I agree whole heartedly.(Forgive my spelling)


by: Kremlin Watcher from: USA
December 28, 2012 10:42 AM
The Kremlin is just looking for a face saving way to deal with Assad's imminent departure. If they had done this 21 months ago, it might have been useful.


by: Michael from: USA
December 28, 2012 8:13 AM
The Kremlin has spotted the breaking point. Washington, in deep water at home, will be forced to move beyond the technocratic response to the war in Syria as the war in Syria

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