News / Middle East

    Russia Calls for Political Transition in Syria

    Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (L) arrives at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, January 11, 2013.Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (L) arrives at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, January 11, 2013.
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    Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (L) arrives at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, January 11, 2013.
    Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (L) arrives at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, January 11, 2013.
    VOA News
    Russia is calling for a political transition process in Syria, but has stopped short of saying President Bashar al-Assad should relinquish power as part of a deal to end the country's conflict.

    In a statement Saturday, Russia's Foreign Ministry reiterated Moscow's long-held position that only Syrians can decide their future without outside interference.

    The statement also called for the immediate end to the "violence and bloodshed" and for providing humanitarian aid to Syrians, including internally displaced people and refugees.

    The statement follows talks Friday in Geneva between international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and U.S. and Russian officials that ended without a breakthrough on how to end the civil war in Syria.

    Brahimi said all sides underscored the need for a political solution, but he acknowledged that resolving the conflict soon is not likely.

    The United States is among U.N. Security Council members that back a political transition plan for Syria that includes Assad stepping down from power. But Russia and China, both permanent members of the Security Council, oppose such a plan.

    More than 60,000 people have been killed in nearly two years of fighting in Syria.

    • Demonstrators hold banners during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, after Friday prayers in Kafranbel, near Idlib, Syria, January 11, 2013 in this picture provided by Shaam News Network.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter uses binoculars near the Menagh military airport, in Aleppo's countryside, Syria, January 10, 2013.
    • A damaged car and buildings covered with snow are seen in the Jouret al Shayah area of Homs, Syria, January 10, 2013.
    • Residents evacuate their houses after being targeted by missiles fired by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's al-Mashhad district, Syria, January 9, 2013.
    • Children sit next to a fire in Aleppo city, Syria, January 9, 2013.
    • Civilians and Free Syrian Army fighters gather at a site hit by a missile in Aleppo's al-Mashhad district, Syria, January 7, 2013.
    • People help a wounded person after a missile hit Aleppo's al-Mashhad district, Syria, January 7, 2013.
    • This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad waving to his supporters after speaking at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria, January 6, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters, wounded during the battle to capture Taftanaz air base, receive treatment at a field hospital in northern Idlib, Syria, January 6, 2013.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter feeds a cat in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, January 6, 2013.
    • A man rides his bicycle past buildings damaged by shelling in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, January 6, 2013.
    • A family crosses a street piled with garbage in Aleppo, Syria, January 5, 2013.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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    by: Ian from: Nairobi
    January 13, 2013 3:17 PM
    Russia is just trying to show "cheap" superiority over the already known mighty ones.
    Russia and actually China are not minding about the lives of Syrian people but only to try to prove to the USA, UK , France and other known genuine world super powers that; they are also the same which far away from the right answer. Russia and China will surely be answerable soon or later.
    In Response

    by: Walter Johnson
    January 14, 2013 6:30 AM
    It is unfortunate that Russia and China have U. N. Security Council veto power. I don't think any one nation, including the USA, should be able to block U. N. Security Council resolutions. The situation where the USA dominated the global economy is now history. The five members of the Security Council with their share of 2011 purchasing power parity are: USA (19%), China (14%), United Kingdom (3%). France (3%), and Russia (3%)., according to the CIA World Factbook. The European Union if treated as one world power is 20%. Obviously the choice of permanent members of the Security Council if done today would not include Russia based on either economic or military power. Your own nation of Nigeria represents only 0.5%. Almost the only measure in which the USA is number 1 anymore is military spending, but as the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated military spending suppresses economic growth.

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    January 13, 2013 3:12 PM
    The number one issue, that every one needs to focus on, is to as soon as possible to relieve the un-imaginable suffering of the Syrian civilians. An issue the Obama administration has been pushing for for some time; I am happy to see that Mr. Putin's administration is onboard, and Russia is also seeing this a a very high priority. The relief of the civilians, push in humanitarian relief corridors and have safe distribution centres, will probably be need to be slowly pushed in, starting with the peripherial locations in the North. Obviouly both sides of this conflict must absolutely agree to allow the corridors/distribution centres to be created. Both sides are not inmune to the charges of genocide, if they do not allow the relief of the civilian population. I would hope to see the opposition, that claims to represent the people, to immediately or as soon as practicable that they are onboard with the humanitarian/ corridors/ distribution centres. Let not it be that those that claim to represent the people fail to be the first to enunciate absolutely clearly, and with out pre-conditions, that they will respect the humanitarian relief program. Pre-condions will only result in more innocent people losing their lives, due food/water/medical supply/heating fuel supply shortages. All the finger pointing, only will get more innocent civilians killled.

    by: Syria from: The US
    January 13, 2013 7:26 AM
    1) Assad must take full responsibility for the very painful deaths of about 60.000 Syrians recently.
    So, he is not a legal president of Syria any longer.
    As a result, he is really a very serious criminal not only of Syria, but also of the whole world.
    Ironically, Putin has wished that Assad will be a part in the new legal Syrian government(?)
    2) Why doesn’t Putin know how to unite with the whole world to force Assad to relinquish his power, so that the destiny of all Russians living in Syria can be secure well in the poor situation that, Syrian opposition parts always feel very bitter to Putin?
    3) Soon or late, Assad’s power will be blown away, what benefits will Putin be able to get in Syria after Assad’s time?
    Putin can still get remarkable benefits in Syria after Assad’s time, if he is truly wise and flexible right now, in order to carry out really necessary supports to end the power of Assad.
    4) Some people guess that, in the next times, Assad can use very heavy artillery and air forces, to destroy all his enemies in the regions lost in the recent battle with Syrian oppostions, to regain these ones.
    And chemical weapons won’t be quite ruled out, if necessary.
    5) Chemical weapons can be stored deeply underground, in the air and naval bases (civil and military), intelligence centers, other vital military bases, and Assad’s residence building…
    So, possibly, our suddenly necessary air attacks toward these goals should be paid attention to specially, in some so urgent cases of the battle.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    January 14, 2013 9:18 PM
    All great points that I myself already felt as well. What concerns me over it all (Other than the concerns of the Syrians)... Is what about these chemical weapons? USA was ready to take out anyone who wrongly gets their hands on them. But with Russian warships defending this tyrant Bashar al Assad the world is helpless of doing anything about these chemical weapons depots. They need to be secured properly and it SHOULD be a joint world effort. Putin is such an idiot.
    In Response

    by: Walter Johnson
    January 14, 2013 6:37 AM
    Although you have a good point, foreign intervention often benefits neither the intervening powers nor the national population helped. The last war with Iraq cost an estimated 600,000 Iraqis their lives, which I suspect is more than the total killed by Iraq's dictator during his reign. The deaths in the USA's own civil war exceed the total of all military combat deaths in all other wars combined.

    by: Anonymous
    January 12, 2013 11:21 PM
    Wait a minute, I thought the Russian Gov. said it is up to the Syrians to decide and nobody should get involved. Russia has acted as a disgrace towards the Syrian people (Yes the people of Syria). So if I were mother Russia, I'd bite your lip.

    by: Nasir Gahgah from: Egypt
    January 12, 2013 11:03 PM
    Russia Calls for Political Transition in Syria... how about a call for political transition in Egypt... officially the first Al Quida State...
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    January 14, 2013 9:19 PM
    How about Russia calls for Bashar to sit down?
    Russia has provided the weaponry to wipe out an entire nation to Bashar and he is using it on the people of the Syrian Nation... War crime!!!! Yes I said War Crime!!!
    In Response

    by: Walter Johnson
    January 14, 2013 6:43 AM
    I do not think your nation of Egypt has been taken over by al Queda, and I doubt it will even become as extremely Islamic as Saudi Arabia. Things may look grim to you know but even the U. S. Constitution had 10 amendments, called the Bill of Rights, not long after its first Congress. A certain amount of creating a new government framework is trial and error.

    What Egypt most needs is to recover its previous economic standard of living and then improve that. The only real limitation is the availability of safe and reliable supplies of drinking water during droughts. This Century will be the era of wars over water rights.

    by: Michael J. Hicks from: Yahoo
    January 12, 2013 8:32 PM
    Every time I think that Russia may have joined the 21st century they respond to an international crisis in their typical way. This time with a hands-off response to Syrian Bashar Assad's massacre of 60,000 Syrian human beings with their air force and superior military technology. Sic transit gloria mundi.
    In Response

    by: Nicholas from: montana
    January 14, 2013 1:43 AM
    For one thing, these rebels are made up of many factions including militant jihadists as well as Al Qaeda affiliates. Russia is playing carefully knowing full well that the situation is still un known and they don't want another Libya happening. For another point, Going into Syria in any way for a humanitarian reason, as has been proven every time, more civilians die as a result of outside powers bombing willy nilly. If anyone actually cared for the Syrian people, military intervention would be the last thing on their minds...just remember how well Afghanistan- Taliban now a major player and a corrupt regime now barely hanging on- and iraq- 1 million dead civilians on account of the US invasion- turned out...
    In Response

    by: Walter Johnson
    January 13, 2013 6:44 AM
    I too have been disappointed in Russia's apparent lack of resolved to enter the modern world, which we used to believe during the Cold War they were in. The truth turned out to be we wasted billions of dollars in national defense money under false pretext from CIA overestimates of Russian military capability. It seems most of the CIA is scared shitless by not fully understood threats and assume the worst.

    It is possible, althoughnot my best guess, that Russia is soft on Assad either because of a declining weapons customer base and not wanting to lose another weapons customer, because the fear a democratic Syria which could become unstable because of the number of internal divisions along religious and tribal lines, or because of the involvement of some terrorist groups among the Syrian rebels. It definitely doesn't want terrorism migrating into the former U. S. S. R., its sphere of influence. Russia was forced out of Afghanistan by US provided ground to air missiles. It didn't want to leave there either. Historically speaking it probably would have been better for the USA to have let Russia keep control of Afghanistan with its mostly illiterate population and internal struggles. Osama bin Laden was himself a U. S. backed so called freedom fighter who drove Russia out of Afghanistan, but with no real home country left he became a leader in al Qaeda with great influence on the Taliban. None of that would have happened if Russia had been allowed by the USA to remain in Afghanistan.

    When it comes to politics I am a pragmatistic and not dogmatic. The wars with Afghanistan and Iraq were both blowbacks from past CIA operations. With all the wealth we have spent defending liberty abroad, the number of democratic nations has actually declined. We should pay attention to our own history.

    by: Walter Johnson
    January 12, 2013 8:19 PM
    Russia is bending over backwards to try and find a way that the conflict in Syria can end without a new government repudiating debts Assad incurred buying weapons from Russia, particularly after the start of the civil war. It won't work.

    The rebels will settle for nothing less than immediate voluntary departure of Assad into exile or continued fighting and the certainty of death for Assad and his associates. The rebels have both the short term and long term advantage in the conflict, particularly if they can separate from al Queda elements that have joined forces with the Syrian majority.
    In Response

    by: Todd Lawrence from: Ledyard, CT
    January 12, 2013 9:46 PM
    Walter,

    Very astute observation and commentary. You are 100% on the mark. Russia has put their eggs in the Assad basket, and is living in abject terror over the chance that the Assad regime collapses and the debts go unpaid... Also in standard ChiCom-Russia theology, Any position that is contrary to USA's position is where china and russia will stand. It is to their benefit to see the USA in a constant stumble...

    -t

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