Moscow, 11 Rabi’ul  Akhir 1434/ 21 February 2013 (MINA) – 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. Both Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Arab League head Nabil Elaraby said on Wednesday (20/2) that they were encouraged by signs of possible dialogue.
       “There are signs of positive tendencies, signs of tendencies for dialogue both from the side of the government and the opposition,” Lavrov said.
        Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kremlin and the Arab League are attempting to establish direct contact between the Syrian regime and the opposition. Sitting down at the negotiating table is the only way to end the conflict without irreparably damaging Syria, he said.
       The men spoke at a joint news conference in Moscow after talks between Lavrov and an Arab delegation that included Elaraby and foreign ministers from Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt.
      “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.
       Along with China, Russia has vetoed UN Security Council resolutions against the Assad government and its crackdown on an uprising that has deteriorated into civil war, killing an estimated 70,000 people, according to BBC News reports monitored by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA), Thursday.

Cool reception from Syria

       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.”
        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.  (T/P011/E1)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)

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