Russia wants to push Syria for democratic reform
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Service Chief Mikhail Fradkov intend to persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to launch democratic reforms to stabilize the situation in the riot-hit Middle East country, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
The statement comes as Lavrov and Fradkov are setting for Damascus to hold talks with the Syrian president on February 7 after Russia and China blocked on Saturday the Morocco-proposed draft resolution on Syria that called on al-Assad to step down, RIA Novosti reported.
"Russia, including in interaction with other countries, is firmly set to seek the quickest stabilization of the situation in Syria along the paths of the quickest implementation of long-overdue democratic transformations," the ministry said in a statement.
"For this purpose, on instruction of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Service Chief Mikhail Fradkov will visit Damascus on February 7 to meet with President Bashar al-Assad."
Moscow also hopes that the Arab League Council of Foreign Ministers will take a decision at its meeting to extend the mission of Arab observers in Syria, the statement said.
"We hope that during the expected discussion of the Syrian issue at a meeting of the League of Arab States Council of Foreign Ministers, a decision will be taken in the interests of the current moment to extend the mission of Arab observers, which has proved its efficiency as a factor of violence de-escalation," the statement said.
At least 5,400 people have been killed in the Syrian government's 11-month crackdown on protesters, according to the UN. Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda and say more than 2,000 soldiers and police have been killed.
Some Western countries have been trying to persuade Moscow to support a resolution effectively authorizing a military operation, but Russia has repeatedly insisted that the Western drive for a stronger crackdown on Syria is preparation for a "Libyan scenario."
In Libya, rebels ousted and killed long-standing dictator Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011 after a months-long military standoff in which they received assistance from NATO forces.