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Syrians must be left to resolve their internal conflict – Russian diplomat

Published time: August 01, 2011 14:07
Edited time: August 01, 2011 14:07

Syrian opposition demonstrators living in Turkey wave their national flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad outside the Syrian consulate in Istanbul July 29, 2011

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There seems to be no end to the civil uprising in Syria. Violent clashes continue, despite proposed reforms and the efforts of mediators. Moscow has been watching the latest developments in the Syrian city of Hama with great concern.

Reports say the Syrian army has launched a tank raid on the city after a month-long siege, with the number of deaths there reaching as many as 100. Russia called on all parties in the conflict to abstain from violence.

“Use of force against both civilians and state officials is unacceptable and must be stopped. We call on the Syrian government and the opposition to use maximum restraint, to refrain from provocations and repressions, to uphold the legal order and international humanitarian law,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Earlier, RT discussed the situation with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who also served as Moscow’s ambassador to Egypt and Israel. He explained why Russia took a firm stance against a draft UN Security Council resolution on Syria after abstaining on a resolution on what looked like a very similar situation in Libya.

“We believe that Syrians should address their problems as part of their domestic agenda. This is an internal civil conflict and it should not be internationalized. As for the situation in Libya, of course every country is unique in terms of its particular situation, the background of its conflicts, the form and the scale of public protest, etc,” he said.

“On the other hand, we should learn our lessons. This refers to the UN resolution on Libya. We are all witness to it, and we still see it now – that a number of international players tend to digress from the strict observation of the instruction and the spirit of the resolution. Therefore we are naturally concerned that such loose interpretations can only result in making some of the opposition circles tighten their position and opt for a tougher approach, which is by no means a positive achievement in terms of finding a mutually acceptable solution,” he added.

The big challenge for foreign mediators in situations like the one in Syria is to be in contact with various opposition groups, with widely differing agendas, and try and convince them to open a dialogue.

“The Syrian opposition is not homogeneous. There is internal opposition, there is external opposition, and there are forces that indeed translate to a certain degree the opinion of the public. Therefore we cannot talk about the whole of the opposition as a uniform force. Some of it is leftist; some stick to socialist or communist views, there is a liberal opposition and an Islamist opposition represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist forces,” he explained.

“We think that the best way to deal with these problems is a nationwide dialogue [in parallel] with crucial economic and social reforms. We support all efforts aimed at launching and promoting a substantive dialogue between the government and the opposition. We adhere to the notion that both parties should abstain from violence and engage in constructive dialogue in an atmosphere of co-operation,”
he added.

The authorities in Syria appear to be trying to address the protesters’ concerns, which Russia welcomes, Bogdanov said.

“The Syrian government and President Assad have delivered a number of statements on their reform plan. During our negotiations with the Syrian leader we insisted that it should be implemented step by step in a consistent manner, promptly and efficiently,”
he said.

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