Red Cross wins Russia backing on Syria

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger huddled with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for about 90 minutes before flying to Brussels.

Moscow: The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday that he felt encouraged by Russia`s position on Syria after trying to secure stronger pressure from Moscow on its Soviet-era ally.
ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger huddled with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for about 90 minutes before flying to Brussels to ask NATO members to exert similar influence with Syria`s rebel forces.
The meetings and simultaneous visit to Syria by teams from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and United Nations come amid frenzied efforts by relief workers to reach thousands of civilians trapped in the escalating violence.

The ICRC in particular has been promoting a daily two-hour ceasefire that could be used for delivering aid and bringing the injured to safety after a year of fighting that opposition activists say has claimed more than 9,100 lives.

Kellenberger and Lavrov issued no joint statement but ICRC officials in Moscow and Geneva said Kellenberger "received positive indications of support" from Russia regarding his ceasefire proposal.

Russia first backed the idea in February and has since stepped up its criticism of President Bashar al-Assad after first blocking two UN Security Council resolutions condemning him for the year of bloody violence.

Kellenberger told a news agency before leaving Moscow that he felt "gratified" that Russia shared Western concerns about the humanitarian situation in Syria.

"I would like to note with satisfaction and gratitude that Sergei Lavrov shares our concern about these problems," Kellenberger was quoted as saying.

"As you well understand, Russia`s support is very important to us."

An ICRC spokeswoman in Moscow said the meeting was a part of Kellenberger`s broader efforts to get world powers to secure commitments from both sides to put down their arms for a few hours each day.

"The ICRC hopes to see concrete results of such meetings on the ground in the coming days and weeks," Victoria Zotikova told a another news agency.

Lavrov levelled some of his strongest criticism of Assad during an appearance before Russian lawmakers last week in which he accused the regime of dragging its feet on reforms and failing at times to follow Moscow`s suggestions.

He later accused both the rebels and Assad`s forces of "very often using "disproportionate force" in the conflict.(AFP)