Russia and Arab League propose direct Syria talks

Destruction in Deir el-Zor, Syria. 20 Feb 2013 Fighting has laid waste to large parts of Syria's cities, like here in Deir el-Zor

Russia and the Arab League say they want to broker direct talks between the Syrian government and opposition in a bid to end the country's civil war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said violence was "a road to nowhere".

The move comes as the opposition Syrian National Coalition is due to begin a two-day meeting in Egypt to discuss a framework for a possible solution.

Some 70,000 people have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, the UN says.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Cairo says although the Syrian government and the opposition are talking about dialogue, that still seems a distant prospect.

Mr Lavrov said the Kremlin and the Arab League wanted to establish direct contact between the Syrian government and the opposition.

Speaking in Moscow, where he hosted league officials and several Arab foreign ministers, the Russian foreign minister said that sitting down at a negotiating table was the only way to end the conflict without irreparable damage to Syria.

Start Quote

Assad and his group must go first. After that we can discuss with others in the regime who didn't share in the killing of our people”

End Quote SNC official Abdelbaset Sieda

"Neither side can allow itself to rely on a military solution to the conflict, because it is a road to nowhere, a road to mutual destruction of the people," he said.

Mr Lavrov and Arab League General Secretary Nabil Elaraby said their priority was to create a transitional government to navigate a way out of the violence.

No conditions for the negotiations have been set, they said.

However, the proposal received a cool reception from the Syrian National Coalition (SNC).

"We cannot agree to that," said Abdelbaset Sieda, a senior member of the opposition group.

"Assad and his group must go first. After that we can discuss with others in the regime who didn't share in the killing of our people."

Civilians flee alleged jet strike in Aleppo. 20 Feb 2013 There have been fierce clashes in the northern city of Aleppo

Russia is a key ally of Syria and recently confirmed that it was still supplying arms to the Damascus government.

Moscow, together with China, has opposed moves at the UN to place sanctions on President Assad's leadership.

The SNC's policy that President Assad and his leadership are excluded from any political process is likely to be endorsed, perhaps even strengthened, by its meeting beginning in Cairo on Thursday, our correspondent says.

Diplomats believe both sides still think they can win the war, and don't really want to talk to one another about a compromise solution, he adds.

The government has proposed a "national dialogue" on a political solution but insists that it must preside over it.

Meanwhile, violence is continuing across Syria.

Two mortars crashed into a sports complex in central Damascus on Wednesday, killing a footballer and wounding three more, the state news agency said.

Sana said two shells landed near Tishreen stadium in Baramkeh district, where Al-Wathba and Al-Nawair teams were preparing to train.

It came a day after state media said two mortars landed near Tishreen presidential palace in another area of Damascus without reports of injuries.

Opposition activists said that a government air raid on the Damascus suburb of Hamouriyeh on Wednesday killed at least 20 people and wounded dozens more.

They also said government planes bombed rebel positions around Damascus and near the northern city of Aleppo on Wednesday.

The reports cannot be independently verified.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    We discussed Syrian peace moves on HYS one year ago: 7 Feb 2012.
    The pupet Dmitry Medvedev was President (7 May 2012) with Putin (Prime Minister) pulling his strings along with those of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
    Medvedev & Putin have swapped jobs - just for show - but Putin's dictatorship is the problem. Syria just exemplifies why you always have to confront Russian bullies.
    Arrest Putin!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    The issue:
    Assad Family has ruled Syria since 1970. It has done so with competence & respect of the Syrians.
    US wants Basher al-Assad gone to deprive Iran of a key ally.
    There is a military stalemate between the Syrian Govt & the so-called rebels. The only way out is NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT, but Assad must be gone: This is just NOT going to happen!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    53. Are you talking about Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker - I guess not as they are not together anymore. perhaps you mean Syd Little and Eddie large - but they are not talking anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    If the Rebels ever win they might ask the Russian Ambassador whilst proffering the Ferrero Rocher "Why did you oppose UN sanctions against Assad's Regime?".

    And later turning to the Chinese Ambassador "and what's your excuse?".

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Russia & Syria = China & North Korea. Countries with little man syndrome cozying up to giants.

    Remind you of anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    It's a pity that its taken 2 years to get to this point but lets hope that Russia can now broker a deal that is good for Syria and not just about protecting Russian military interest in the area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    "Sergei Lavrov said violence was 'a road to nowhere.'"

    How does he think democracies come about? Dictators aren't easily talked into giving up power.

    Russia & France had revolutions that removed their monarchies and moved them closer.

    We had civil wars... The US had a revolutionary one...

    Germany's democracy came about from two world wars...

    Not saying I like it but that's often how it is...

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    In the future things could be worse than under Assad pre-war but NOTHING can be worse than Assad today.
    And all these comments about the US wanting oil is old hat. With the shale fuel and gas being exploited they now have all what they need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Leave well alone.In the long run we will get no thanks if we help to oust Assad and you can also be sure that,were this to happen,what followed would be worse.,Many of those involved inside Syria have an ideology belonging to the Middle Ages,pity we cannot send them back there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    In Egypt , Tunisia and even Yemen,the military had the sense to stop the killings.
    In Libya & Syria they did not so if justice prevails Assad (and even more his butcher brother),will end up like Khadaffi.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    One mans "Freedom Fighter" is another mans "Terrorist", is an old saying that Dave ought to remember.
    When Qaddafi channeled arms to the IRA he was vilified by the international community.
    The Syrian crisis is showing the USA wants an unstable middle East to enable easier Oil grabs in the future. I served in Iraq and it WAS all about the oil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    To those who keep blabbing on about "US/UK interests blah blah" - the Russians are still arming the government, anyone with a brain can see what happens when we start arming the opposition.....damned if we do, damned if we don't, as usual.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Of course the rebels welcomed help from the Islamists as the west did nothing for them. (Counters all those who say its for US/UK interests,in which case they WOULD have got involved)

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    This conflict has shown more than any other that the UK/US Governments are not interested in bringing peace to the world, only what is in their and their Corporate backers interests.
    The funding of extremists in Syria is a national disgrace if not an actual war crime.
    The same terrorists are killing our boys in Afghanistan, would the UK have allowed Russia to arm the IRA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    @42 Why don't you feel you have freedom of speech ? Isn't that what you are exercising now ?

    It appears your grasp of world events is as good as your spelling. If you seriously think a revolution is a good thing, does that mean that anyone can have a revolution to further their own agenda when you are in charge. What will you do when someone picks up gun to change the system ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I applaud someone in the world trying to end the conflict rather than pour petrol on the fire like UK, USA and Isreal have been doing by providing terrorist organisations weapons and ammunition.

    Incidently since we are so sympathetic to revolutions, is there any chance that we could have a revolution in USA and in UK get rid of some of the corruption and restore freedom of speech and democrasy??

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    although the conflict isnt nice for the innocent people, should we really care??? if it were reversed they would be celebrating the deaths of our men women and children

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    @14.Eat the Path = it wasn`t Assads terrorists that deliberately set out to bring civil war to a stable country, It wasn`t Assads terrorists hiding in residential areas and firing on Syrian troops, it wasn`t Assads terrorists running around shouting god is great every time they fired a gun and it wasn`t and isn`t Assads troops setting off car bombs to kill civilians going about their daily lifes

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    400 civilian deaths, everyone will start jumping up and down and say the gov is incompetent.
    Russia is saying, if you take away the gov, there will be way more.
    UK/US are saying, no, it will be safer to leave it to al qaeda and its friends.
    But actually,
    UK/US: we want to remove Iran's ally and hit Russia military sales.
    Russia/Iran: protect our friends and regional interests.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Russia is only interested in the Arms Sales they will lose.

    The UK is the puppet for the US, by removing Assad they remove the supply chain from IRAN to Lebanon and therfore help Israel.


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