Topic: Protests in Syria
MOSCOW, February 20 (RIA Novosti) - Even uncompromising opposition figures in Syria who until recently said President Bashar Assad should resign have realized the need for dialog with the Middle East country’s authorities, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
“The key thing we feel now is that the issue of dialog is becoming a priority, including among those who have until recently rejected our calls for the start of such talks between the government and the opposition and said the resignation of President Bashar Assad is the precondition for any such contacts,” Lavrov told journalists on Tuesday.
Now, Lavrov said, the opposition does not demand such preconditions. “This development may only be welcomed,” he said.
Russia - along with China - has faced widespread condemnation over its refusal to approve UN sanctions against Assad’s regime, whose forces the international community has accused of widespread human rights abuses.
However, Moscow has repeatedly stated it has no interest in seeing Assad remain in power, but is concerned that unilateral sanctions would create a power vacuum that would lead to more violence.
About 70,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the uprising against Assad in March 2011, according to UN figures.
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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.