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Syrian opposition sees no change in Russia’s stance

- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 11, 2012

MOSCOW (AP) — The leader of a prominent Syrian opposition group said Wednesday after talks with Russia's foreign minister that he sees "no change" in Moscow's opposition to international intervention in Syria.

A delegation from the Syrian National Council, the main exiled Syrian opposition group, met with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with the aim of pushing Russia to accept the Syrian president's ouster as part of a political transition in Syria.

Group leader Abdelbaset Sieda called for an intervention by the United Nations "to bring a halt to the violence. Activists say more than 17,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011.

Russia opposes international intervention. Along with China, it twice has blocked U.N. condemnations of Syria's government. While saying that it does not support Syrian President Bashar Assad per se, Russia insists that any political transition have the consent of both Mr. Assad's government and the opposition.

After meeting with the delegation, Mr. Lavrov said, "Syrians themselves must determine their fate."

Mr. Lavrov also expressed hope that there would be "a unification of all the (Syrian) opposition groups" to engage in dialogue with the regime.

The arrival of the Syrian delegation this week raised hopes that the Russian government was entering a new phase of engagement with the opposition. On Monday, Russia said it would sell no new weapons to the Assad regime.

But on Tuesday, Russia said it was sending 11 warships to the Mediterranean, some of which would dock at the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia has a maintenance and operations base. Russia said the ships will take part in training and coordination exercises, but the flotilla's presence will demonstrate Russia's military potential in the region.

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