Topic: Protests in Syria
William Hague and Sergei Lavrov sign documents during a joint Britain-Russia conference© AFP 2013/ POOL/ Stefan Rousseau
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LONDON, March 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is taking no sides in the Syrian conflict and hopes that the Syrian opposition will soon form a team to negotiate with government representatives, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.
The Russian and British foreign and defense ministers discussed the situation in Syria in a “2+2” format in London.
Moscow previously said it is ready to provide a venue for negotiations between the Syrian opposition and Syrian authorities.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated London’s continuing support for the Syrian opposition. He previously said Britain was stepping up its support for the opposition and beginning to supply it with new types of noncombat equipment, including vehicles, medical, rescue and other equipment.
Hague said he hoped Syrian opposition coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib would soon visit Moscow, noting the importance of Russia’s contacts with the Syrian opposition.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia has no plans to increase the scope of its military-technical assistance to Syria.
“Russia does not intend to expand the current volume of [military-technical] assistance; we are implementing the existing contracts and there is no question about any new projects or contracts,” he said.
About 70,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, according to UN figures. Russia, along with China, has faced widespread condemnation over its refusal to approve UN sanctions against Assad’s regime.
Moscow has repeatedly stated it has no interest in seeing Assad remain in power, but is rather concerned that unilateral sanctions would create a power vacuum that would lead to more violence.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.