Russia hopes for political settlement of Syrian crisis
Mikhail Margelov, the Russian president’s special envoy to Libya, and the chairman of the Russian Society for Friendship with Asian and African countries, met with a delegation of Syrian opposition activists headed by the director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights in Washington Radwan Ziadeh.The Russian Interior Ministry said in a special statement that the Syrian opposition members were making the visit as private citizens and no official talks or meetings were scheduled.Russian official noted that the meeting was important for deciding what future steps Russia might take. “There are tens of thousands of graduates of Russian institutes residing in Syria and they are a serious force. We know about a large number of Russian citizens in this country, the Syrian Diaspora in Russia, as well as those spread throughout the entire territory of the former Soviet Union, who are great numerically but also visibly represented in both economic and social spheres." the official said.Margelov stressed that relations between Syria and Russia were a capital that should not be pointlessly depleted. “This is the reason for political dialogue regarding the quickest cessation of all forms of violence, the [need for a] speedy conclusion to armed clashes and the transition to resolving the Syrian political crisis via the format roundtable talks, the recreation of the national unification system and the movement towards a new, reformed and modernized Syria,” the Russian envoy said. Margelov also said that the Russian leadership was ready to listen to representatives from the opposition who had been sent by various strata of Syrian society. “For us in Russia, it is absolutely clear that we have no other friend in this country apart from the Syrian people. The leaders come and go just as politicians do,” the Russian official said. The Russian envoy said Moscow was highly interested that the reforms announced by the Syrian government become a reality and that all Syrian political, religious and ethnic groups took part in this process. The head of the Syrian delegation Radwan Ziadeh said he was pleased with the Moscow talks and hoped that Russia uses the influence it has over President Bashar Assad’s regime. He added that the current actions of the Syrian authorities were absolutely unacceptable. The unrest in Syria started in mid-March, after a wave of violent protests led to the overthrow of the governments in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as the international military operation in Libya. The Syrian opposition claim that government forces had already killed over 1200 protesters while Syrian officials lay the blame on bandits supported by external forces. On Monday, a large group of Syrian opposition members held an officially authorized conference in Damascus in which they agreed to support only a peaceful uprising and denounced the armed struggle that could destroy the country. President Assad and his top aides have set up a National Dialogue Commission – a special body that would gather on July 10 to decide on future reforms in the country. Assad insisted that all factions could take part in the commission’s work.