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Middle East

Russia hosts top Syrian dissident for talks

  • Russia's FM Lavrov (R) shakes hands with prominent Syrian opposition activist Michel Kilo before a meeting with members of the delegation representing the Syrian opposition at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow July 9, 2012. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)

MOSCOW: Russia on Monday hosted a delegation led by top Syrian dissident Michel Kilo for talks as Moscow comes under growing pressure from the West to halt all support for the regime of Bashar Assad.

Kilo's visit to Moscow comes ahead of a similar trip later this week by the head of the opposition Syrian National Council in a rare flurry of diplomacy between Moscow and the Syrian opposition against Assad's regime.

The Syrian opposition and the West want Russia to use its influence on Assad to help bring about an end to escalating violence that has already left over 17,000 dead. Moscow has consistently refused to call for Assad to quit power.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Kilo that Russia was the only state talking to both the regime and the opposition about implementing the stalled peace plan of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

"Russia is one of few, if not the only country which is working actively with the Syrian government and different opposition forces for the implementation of the Kofi Annan plan," Lavrov said, quoted by Russian news agencies.

"I hope that your evaluation (of the situation) will be useful for us," he told Kilo.

Kilo said that while he wanted a national dialogue, "the regime -- alas -- is not replying to our demands and is saying that we are not representatives of the Syrian people."

The dissident is a member of the National Committee for Democratic Change which groups Arab nationalists, socialists, Marxists, members of the Kurdish minority and independents such as himself.

Russia on Wednesday will host the new head of the exiled Syrian National Council (SNC), Abdel Basset Sayda, whose coalition has at times been vehemently critical of Moscow's policy on Syria.

 
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