Russia Claims Syria Receptive to Plan to End Crackdown
(MOSCOW) -- Russia sent two of its top government officials to Syria Tuesday to suggest a plan that would end the 11-month crackdown on pro-reform dissidents that has cost thousands of lives and further threatens the stability of the Mideast.
However, neither Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov nor Mikhail Fradkov, the head of the Russian foreign intelligence service, would reveal the nature of Moscow's strategy.
The U.S. has criticized Russia and China for vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution that both condemns Damascus and demands that President Bashar al-Assad cede power to a transitional government so that free elections to pick new leaders can be held.
Moscow and Beijing asserted that the U.N. action was counterproductive and slapping sanctions on Syria would only strengthen al-Assad's resolve to crush the opposition, who he claims are being instigated by outsiders.
Still, Russia is also reluctant to be thought of as endorsing a violent crackdown against civilians that has earned the scorn of the international community.
According to Lavrov, the meeting he and Fradkov had with al-Assad went well. He told reporters, “We have confirmed our preparedness to facilitate a rapid end to the crisis based on the positions set out in the Arab League initiative. In particular, the president of Syria gave assurance that he is fully committed to an end to violence, no matter its source."
Lavrov added that al-Assad is ready to hold serious talks with opposition leaders, although the government's foes say they neither trust the president nor his Russian allies.
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