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29 Aug, 2011 13:19

Russia to Syria: Stop violence now!

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev has urged both the Syrian government and opposition to lay down arms and start negotiations immediately. The message was handed over on Monday by a top Russian envoy personally to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Calling for peace, Russia stresses the importance “of taking instant concrete measures to implement the reforms announced by the Syrian government,” says the Kremlin press service. Moreover, the Syrian dissidents are urged not to avoid dialogue with the officials, adds the Kremlin. After the message was handed over, President Assad and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held closed-door talks to refine the mutual understanding of the current situation in Syria and Russia’s position.Meanwhile, confrontation between official and civil Syria is continuing, with Syrian security forces having surrounded the town of Rastan in the heart of the country. Rastan is believed to be one of the dissidents’ strongholds. According to the UN, government crackdowns have taken the lives of over 2,000 people in Syria since social protests first broke out in March this year.

UN at war over Syrian resolution

Moscow, along with Beijing, has been challenging the stance taken by the US and others in the UN on the situation in Syria, where anti-government protests have been raging on and off since March. On Friday, Moscow came up with a draft resolution on Syria riving the one proposed by the US, UK, France, and some other countries. The text does not call for sanctions or any punitive measures on the western Asian country, but falls in line with Medvedev’s message to Assad. The resolution would also urge Syrian authorities to speed up proposed reforms and call on the opposition to start a dialogue with the government.The Russian text was frowned at by the US and EU envoys, one of them even calling the resolution “toothless”, reports Reuters. Russian and Chinese diplomats declined to attend to the informal talks on the resolution drafted by Western countries (US, France, Great Britain, Germany and Portugal). The diplomats were cited “to have no instructions,” while Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin hinted that Moscow would veto the draft if it were put to a vote. The two countries fear the new resolution on Syria might receive too broad an interpretation, just as the UNSC resolution 1973 on Libya has.The resolution proposed by the Western envoys provides for sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, influential members of his family and close associates. A travel ban would be imposed on 22 of Assad's relatives and associates, excluding President Assad himself. Diplomats say they want to give the Syrian president a chance to leave the country. The resolution also provides for an asset freeze on 23 Syrians, including Assad. The Western coalition is deeming to put this draft to a vote “as soon as possible.”