Russia urges Damascus to talk with Syrian opposition

Russia, Syria's biggest international supporter, is leaning on President Bashar al-Assad to begin a dialogue with the Syrian opposition and take steps toward ending the conflict. 

Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (r.) shakes hands with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr during a news conference in Moscow December 28. Lavrov urged the Syrian government on Friday to act on its stated readiness for dialogue with opponents, amid a diplomatic push to end a 21-month-old conflict in Syria.

Russia urged the Syrian government today 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 yesterday.

"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 last 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," added 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 international Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi his plans to end the civil war there, the Kremlin's envoy to the region said earlier today.

Brahimi will visit Moscow tomorrow 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'," Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the RIA news agency – in a word play on the first letter of the diplomats' last names.

Russian influence

Bogdanov, US Undersecretary of State William Burns and Brahimi, the joint special representative of the United Nations and the Arab League, 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 in January 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 underline Moscow's commitment to helping Brahimi seek a way out of the crisis.

Russia has been critical of the Western backing for the Syrian National Council trying to oust Assad.

Brahimi, who has called for a transitional government to rule until elections, is trying to broker a peaceful transfer of power in Syria, where more than 44,000 people have been killed in a revolt against four decades of Assad family rule.

What role Assad and members of his government might play in a transitional body – a plan outlined in Geneva six months ago – has divided world powers.

Past peace efforts have floundered as what began as peaceful protests in March 2011 turned into civil war. The conflict has become an increasingly sectarian struggle between mostly Sunni Muslim rebels and Assad's security forces, drawn primarily from his Shi'ite-rooted Alawite minority.

World powers believe Russia, which has given 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 Assad in recent months and has denied it is not propping him up. But it maintains Assad's exit cannot be a precondition for talks and has repeatedly said Western powers should not impose solutions on Syria.

Lavrov warned yesterday that time was running out to find a peaceful solution to the conflict and halt a descent into "bloody chaos."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Russia urges Damascus to talk with Syrian opposition
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2012/1228/Russia-urges-Damascus-to-talk-with-Syrian-opposition
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe