Syrian diplomat in Moscow seeking Russia`s support

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 15:42

Moscow: Syria`s Foreign Minister Walid
Muallem was in Moscow Tuesday for talks in a bid to persuade Russia to maintain support for the Damascus regime even as hopes for a UN-backed peace plan slipped away.

Russia has been one of very few world powers to offer
some support to President Bashar al-Assad in his bloody
standoff with protestors but has also backed the plan of UN
envoy Kofi Annan to end the violence.

The visit by the veteran foreign minister to Moscow
coincides with the deadline under the Annan plan for the
Syrian government to withdraw its forces from protest cities
which so far it has shown little sign of observing.

"There is the Annan plan, it contains concrete points and
we fully support this plan," the Interfax news agency quoted
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying ahead of the
talks yesterday.

Muallem, who arrived in Moscow late yesterday, is due to
hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov followed by a
news conference at 0900 GMT.

Russia has repeatedly condemned the West for taking what
it says is a one-sided approach in the conflict but has in
recent weeks shown signs of growing exasperation with the
intransigence of the Assad regime.

Moscow says its position is objective and gives it
unmatched influence over Damascus, although rights activists
have accused Russia of giving a green light to violence that
has already left more than 9,000 dead according to the UN.

Last week Moscow supported a UN Security Council
statement calling on Syria to "urgently" move to keep today`s
deadline agreed with Annan to withdraw troops and weapons from
protest cities.

"Damascus risks losing Moscow. The failure of the Kofi
Annan plan could cost Bashar al-Assad dear," said the
Nezavisimaya Gazeta liberal daily.

Assad`s secular regime has been able until now to count
on Moscow as a friend, in a long standing alliance that goes
back to the warm relations between the Soviet Union and his
predecessor and father Hafez al-Assad.


First Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 15:42

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