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Russia pushes for intra-Syria dialogue


18:27, February 20, 2013

MOSCOW, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Moscow on Wednesday called for the early launch of an intra-Syria dialogue between the government and the opposition as it saw promising signals to break the deadlock.

Russia believed a military approach could not settle the nearly two-year-old conflict in Syria and expected the intra-Syria dialogue would be launched soon, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the opening of a ministerial meeting of the Russian-Arab cooperation forum.

Both conflicting sides have realized that it is necessary to launch such talks, he said.

Syria and the situation in the Middle East top the agenda of the meeting. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi and senior diplomats from Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Libya participated in the session.

Lavrov on Tuesday hailed progress made in solving the prolonged crisis in Syria, when he briefed reporters on Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem's visit to Moscow slated for next Monday.

Russia and Syria would discuss the need to start the dialogue and a political settlement of the crisis, Lavrov said, adding that Moscow has been working with both the Syrian government and the opposition to prepare for such talks.

Moscow saw promising signals to break the deadlock as those who have refused to start the dialogue gradually changed their minds, according to Lavrov.

Some relevant parties have set President Bashar al-Assad's resignation as a precondition for the negotiation. "Now we don't hear such preconditions," Lavrov said.

Russia welcomed such progress, as it demonstrated that "things have started moving," he noted.

Foreign players and the international community as a whole should prevent such preconditions from becoming an obstacle to the dialogue, Lavrov said.

Also on Tuesday, two Russian planes carrying 46 tons of humanitarian aid flew to the Syrian port city of Latakia.

Late Tuesday night, one of the aircraft brought back to Moscow 99 Russian nationals and citizens of other Commonwealth of Independence States countries who wished to leave the war-torn country.

The Foreign Ministry said the operation was arranged at the request of those evacuees, most of whom were women and children.

Russia conducted a similar operation last month and denied it was evacuation. According to Lavrov, the situation in Syria required no "emergency actions" from Moscow following the January operation.

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday that the Russian Navy would maintain its presence in the Mediterranean Sea following the recent maneuvers.

The Black Sea Fleet would send large assault ships -- Saratov and Azov -- to the Mediterranean before the end of February, a military spokesperson said.

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