Mobile  |  About us  |  Photos  |  Videos  |  Subscriptions  |  RSS Feeds  |  Today's Paper  |  Classifieds  |  Contact Us
The Daily Star
MONDAY, 21 APR 2014
12:46 PM Beirut time
Weather    
Beirut
21 °C
Blom Index
BLOM
1,214.01down
Middle East
Follow this story Print RSS Feed ePaper share this
Russia in ground-breaking talks with Syrian opposition
Agence France Presse
US Vice President Joseph Biden (R) and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov (L) meet for bilateral talks at the 49th Munich Security Conference on February 2, 2013 in Munich, southern Germany.  AFP PHOTO/CHRISTOF STACHE
US Vice President Joseph Biden (R) and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov (L) meet for bilateral talks at the 49th Munich Security Conference on February 2, 2013 in Munich, southern Germany. AFP PHOTO/CHRISTOF STACHE
A+ A-

MUNICH, Germany: Ground-breaking talks between the Russian foreign minister and the Syrian opposition leader have bolstered a global push to narrow sharp differences over how to end the conflict in Syria.

Moscow said Saturday it wanted to keep in regular contact with the Syrian opposition, after its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib met for the first time.

"I reminded Khatib that after the creation of the coalition and the appointment of their leader, we immediately demonstrated our interest in maintaining regular contact," Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying after the meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

"We will make that happen," he added.

Lavrov had earlier Saturday held talks with US Vice President Joe Biden and UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi amid strong disagreement between Moscow and Washington about ways to end the 22-month Syria conflict, which according to the United Nations has claimed upwards of 60,000 lives.

Khatib, who became the head of the coalition late last year, reiterated on the opening day of the Munich talks Friday an earlier surprise announcement that his group is ready for dialogue with the Damascus regime -- subject to conditions including the release of 160,000 detainees.

Lavrov said Moscow welcomed the initiative, adding: "If we take into account the fact that the coalition was founded on a refusal to engage in a dialogue with the regime, it's a very important step."

Biden, in his meeting with Lavrov, called on Washington and Moscow to put aside "serious differences" and stressed the need for US-Russian cooperation, including over Syria, the White House said.

Moscow's engagement with the Syrian opposition comes just days after Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev took the rare step of criticising Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad made a "grave, perhaps fatal error" in not reaching out more quickly to the Syrian opposition "which was ready to sit at the negotiating table with him", Russian news agencies quoted Medvedev as saying on Sunday last week.

"It seems to me that his chances of staying (in power) are shrinking day by day," Medvedev told CNN television.

Biden also met Khatib and Brahimi in Munich on Saturday.

He "urged Khatib to continue his efforts to maintain unity among the SOC (Syrian Opposition Coalition) leadership, to isolate extremist elements within the broader opposition, and to reach out to, and be inclusive of, a broad range of communities inside Syria, including Alawites, Christians and Kurds", according to a White House statement.

Earlier the US vice president insisted Assad was a "tyrant" and must go.

The United States and its allies have made repeated calls for Assad's ousting. Key Damascus ally Russia has resisted any international action, arguing that the Syrian people must decide their own fate.

Lavrov, whose country has blocked three UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning Assad for the violence, called for another meeting of the Syrian action group led by Brahimi to try to reach agreement on a transition, saying he believed progress was possible.

He said Moscow shared Washington's concern about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"We coordinate this issue with the Americans on a daily basis. We have reliable information that for now, the Syrian government has control of the chemical weapons, that the situation is safe," Lavrov said in his address to the conference.

"I think that this (the use of chemical weapons) is a 'red line' for everyone. We are categorically against the use of any arms."

In a dramatic development last week, Syria said Israeli air strikes hit a weapons research centre near Damascus and threatened to retaliate.

Israel has not commented on the reports, but a US official said an Israeli raid struck surface-to-air missiles and a nearby military complex on the capital's outskirts.

Israel has frequently warned that if Syrian chemical weapons fall into the hands of the Shiite movement Hezbollah, its arch-foe and close Damascus ally, this would be a casus belli.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told AFP that Washington is also concerned the "chaos" in Syria could allow Hezbollah to obtain sophisticated weaponry.

On the ground on Saturday, rebels were reported to have taken control of the Sheikh Said district of Aleppo, Syria's second city, in a strategic victory securing a key route to its international airport.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on activists and medics on the ground for its information, said at least 114 people were killed on Saturday: 46 civilians, 33 rebels and 35 soldiers.

Meanwhile, a senior Iranian official visiting Damascus reiterated that his country stood squarely behind the Syrian regime.

 
Home Middle East
 
     
 
Germany
Advertisement
Comments  

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement


Baabda 2014
Advertisement
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Linked In Follow us on Google+ Subscribe to our Live Feed
Multimedia
Images  
Pictures of the day
A selection of images from around the world- Monday April 21, 2014
View all view all
Advertisement
Rami G. Khouri
Rami G. Khouri
Why Israeli-Palestinian talks fail
Michael Young
Michael Young
Why confuse gibberish with knowledge?
David Ignatius
David Ignatius
Echoes of 1914 characterize the Ukraine crisis
View all view all
Advertisement
cartoon
 
Click to View Articles
 
 
News
Business
Opinion
Sports
Culture
Technology
Entertainment
Privacy Policy | Anti-Spamming Policy | Disclaimer | Copyright Notice
© 2014 The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved - Designed and Developed By IDS