Regarding the Situation in Syria: “We Do Not Share the US and EU Point of View concerning President Bashar al-Assad”

Comment by Press and Information Department of Russian Foreign Ministry on a Question from Interfax News Agency Regarding the Situation in Syria

Question: Please comment on the calls of US President Barack Obama and EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Answer: Our position on the events in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) is that the leadership of the country headed by President Bashar al-Assad has to be given more time to carry out the declared major program of political and economic reforms.

Recently, Damascus has taken very substantial steps toward that end.  Those steps included lifting the state of emergency; dissolving the Supreme State Security Court; issuing a decree on the right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully; putting multiparty and general election laws into effect.  Work to pass media and local government laws is nearing completion.  The general elections will be held before the end of the year, and constitutional reform completed before February-March 2012.  An amnesty for political prisoners has been announced.  Humanitarian access to Syrian territory has been opened.  Currently, a mission of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is in the SAR.  Syrian authorities are also ready to receive a delegation of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Of course, the situation in Syria, and the reports of deaths of people there, cannot help but disturb us.  After all, this state is one of the pillars of Middle Eastern architecture.  Its destabilization would have the most severe consequences for the entire region.

We believe that a clear and unambiguous signal has been sent to the Syrians about the need to end all violence.  This signal is also for the opposition, which should enter into dialogue with the authorities and dissociate itself from extremists.  Outside encouragement of the radical forces that incite tension in the SAR, we strongly believe, is inadmissible.

Based on these considerations, we would like to point out that we do not share the US and EU point of view concerning President Bashar al-Assad and will continue to pursue our consistent and principled line on Syria.

August 19, 2011

This comment was published on the Web site of the Russian Foreign Ministry; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.  Cf. “Boris Dolgov, from the Oriental Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, comments: ‘It looks like Damascus has succeeded in suppressing the uprising.  President Bashar al-Assad based his statements on reality.  In a way, he also wanted to convince the international community that the situation is back to normal and that Syria’s law enforcers have crushed whatever armed units have been operating on the territory of Syria. . . .  Dialogue is possible and has been going on with opposition leaders who call for constructive, democratic changes.  But there are armed opposition groups that are fighting against the government and will not negotiate any democratic freedoms as long as President Assad is in power.  They aim at toppling the president and don’t care what will happen next.  This is because these groups are so motley, consisting of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and mercenaries from Afghanistan and Arab countries.  Among them are Islamists who waged a war against the president’s father Hafez Assad in the 1980s'” (Fedoruk Vladimir, “Syrian Leader Signals Reconciliation,” Voice of Russia, 18 August 2011); “‘NATO Cooperation Unpopular in Russia'” (Press TV, 18 August 2011); “One Problem with a Neighbour: Turkey’s Tough Talk on Syria Is Unlikely to Be Matched by Action” (The Economist, 20 August 2011).

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