Russia tells Syria to speed up political reforms
Russia calls Syria a ‘friend’ but expresses concern for the ‘suffering of innocent people’ urging the regime to accelerate political reforms
AFP , Saturday 23 Apr 2011
Russia on Saturday urged its Middle East ally, Syria, to accelerate its political reforms after more than 80 people were reported killed in one of the bloodiest days of a month-long pro-democracy uprising.
The foreign ministry said in a statement that Russia viewed Syria as its "friend" but still remained "concerned by the heightening of tensions and signs of a confrontation that is leading to the suffering of innocent people."
"We are firmly convinced that only constructive dialogue and accelerated broad-scale political, social and economic reforms outlined by the Syrian leadership can achieve stable and democratic development," the statement said.
Moscow also called on "the government and all social and political groups and confessions ... to suspend violence and continue searching for fair solutions to existing problems."
Russia has retained close ties with Syria since the Soviet era and is currently supplying the country with advanced missiles and other arms.
It vowed in February to fulfil its contract to supply Syria with cruise missiles despite Israeli objections and is also providing the country with MiG-29 fighter jets along with various armoured vehicles and other defences.
President Dmitry Medvedev travelled to Damascus in May 2010 to further boost trade ties and promote Russia's waning presence in the Middle East.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad last visited Russia in August 2008 and was one of the few world leaders to back Moscow that year in its war with Georgia.
Syrian forces killed more than 80 people on Friday in one of the bloodiest days of protests since unprecedented pro-democracy demonstrations erupted on 15 March, rights groups said.