Syrian opposition in Moscow for official talks

AFP , Tuesday 15 Nov 2011

Syria opposition in exile says they want to end the crisis without military interference from the outside

The exiled Syrian opposition on Tuesday visited Moscow for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country has so far refused to back punitive measures against the Damascus regime.

"We want the crisis to be overcome," Burhan Ghalioun, the Paris-based leader of the dissident Syrian National Council who led the delegation to Russia, was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency.

"And we would like this without military interference from the outside," he said ahead of his talks with Lavrov.

Russia has repeatedly opposed Western efforts to slap sanctions against its traditional Middle Eastern ally Syria over its lethal crackdown on protests, insisting on the need for dialogue.

Moscow has also become one of the few countries which condemned Syria's suspension from the Arab League, saying Monday that the move was "incorrect" and appeared to be pre-planned.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month called on President Bashar al-Assad to accept reforms or resign, but Moscow has subsequently not backed insistent Western calls for him to quit.

Ahead of his talks with the opposition delegation, Lavrov said Russia wanted Syria to escape the fate of Libya where an estimated 30,000 were killed in the conflict and would "try to get them to understand our concern."

Syrian dissidents officially declared the formation of the Syrian National Council in Turkey in October, saying they had established a "historic" united front against Assad.

Ghalioun said at the time that the council aims to "realise the aspirations of our people for the overthrow of the regime."

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