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14 May, 2013 09:48

No moves to shake up situation in Syria – Putin

Moves that could destabilize the situation in Syria must be avoided, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with the Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu in Sochi.

Putin and Netanyahu have agreed that the Syrian armed conflict, if continued, could pose “disastrous consequences” for the whole region.

“The only way to prevent a negative scenario in Syria is the soonest end of the armed conflict and the beginning of political settlement,” Putin said.

Russia and Israel will continue contacts at diverse levels for a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis, Netanyahu told journalists after the meeting.

“Together we are seeking to find the way to strengthen stability and security, we have a perfect opportunity to talk directly with each other,” he said.

Earlier, the Kremlin has voiced concerns over plans to extend a no-fly zone into Syrian airspace following airstrikes allegedly carried out by Israeli war planes inside Syria last week.

“Unfortunately, such destructive ideas resurface periodically, but no one thinks about the consequences,” said Genardy Gatilov, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister. He also stressed decisions regarding Syria could only be taken by the UN Security Council and that any other actions were a breach of international law.

The Israeli PM’s visit comes off the back of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to Moscow, during which he emphasized the US commitment to the Geneva communiqué which calls all sides of the conflict to the negotiating table. The UK Prime Minister also held talks in Russia agreeing to work in tandem with Russia to bring the two-year conflict raging in Syria to an end.

Last year’s Geneva accord saw the international community come to an agreement on a plan for power transition in Syria. Following the meeting, however, differing interpretations of the plan led to yet more disagreements among the international community.

May 7, 2013. Russian President Vladimir Putin, third left, seen during a meeting withthe US Secretary of State John Kerry, second left, in the Kremlin. Background right: Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister.(RIA Novosti / Mikhail Klimentyev)

In the latest attempt to encourage a diplomatic solution to the conflict Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry agreed last week to organize talks that would bring together the Syrian opposition and government.

However, Moscow and Washington have some disagreements over the conference plan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday, criticizing the opposition-friendly list of participants the US has compiled.

“Moscow insists that the conference on Syria bring together representatives of Syria’s neighbors – Iran and Saudi Arabia – alongside the countries participating in the Geneva talks. It looks like Washington wants to limit the list of participants to outspoken supporters of the opposition,” Lavrov said. 

The conference must bring together all groups in the Syrian opposition except “extremists and terrorists,” he added.

The Syrian government said on Tuesday that it needed more information on the proposed conference before it could decide on its participation.

The French government also voiced its reservations over the new plan, doubting that the meeting will be held anytime soon. They said at the very earliest the conference would happen at the end of May.

Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the conference would be held at the beginning of June in a meeting in Stockholm on Tuesday.

"I have talked with almost all of the foreign ministers in the core group who will be meeting next week together in order to lay plans for this negotiation. The members of the opposition have been in touch," he said.

The ‘Friends of Syria’ group backing the Syrian opposition will meet next week in Jordan to push for the Russian-US sponsored conference, Jordanian officials said on Tuesday according to Reuters.

Previous attempts to coerce the opposition into talks with the government have been fruitless.

Rebels have called for the immediate step-down of President Assad, while the government condemns opposition forces as terrorists.

The damage caused by an Israeli strike according to SANA. Israel carried out a pre-dawn air strike near Damascus on May 5, targeting Iranian missiles destined for Lebanon's Hezbollah in the second such raid on Syria in three days, a senior Israeli source said. (AFP Photo / SANA )

‘Israel shooting itself in the foot?’

Israel’s strikes on Syrian territory allegedly targeting weapons convoys headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon drew sharp condemnation from Damascus, which branded them as an act of war. Furthermore, President Assad invited Palestinian fighters over the border into Syria to fight against Israel.

“Israel gives itself permission to attack other countries but does not accept any other country doing the same to it. This strike cannot be legitimate and Israel should be judged in international courts,” said Jaber Bassal from Israeli political party Hadash to RT correspondent Paula Slier.

Despite international condemnation there is widespread support in Israel for the strikes inside Syria.

Hamad Awidat, a local journalist in Israel told RT that the violence would not stop at Syria and will lead to a spillover of the violence.

“After they are finished killing the Syrian people they go ahead to Haifa, to Nazareth, to Tel Aviv and to Jerusalem,” Awidat said.

Israeli officials have not yet confirmed or denied to have been behind the airstrikes in spite of widespread international condemnation that the attacks where a breach of international law.