MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday plans for Syria’s political future must not be forced on it from outside, underlining its hostility to foreign pressure for President Bashar al-Assad’s exit and to Western backing for an opposition coalition.
In a statement about talks on Sunday between international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Russian and U.S. officials, the Foreign Ministry reiterated calls for an end to violence and the start of talks on “the parameters of a transition period”.
It said Russia “stressed that fundamental decisions about reforming Syria’s political system ... must be made by Syrians themselves, without outside interference or attempts to force prepared recipes for socio-political development” on them.
The United States and its NATO allies have pressed for Assad’s departure as part of efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria, but Russia and China have blocked action against the Syrian leader at the U.N. Security Council.
The ministry statement called for an immediate end to violence and “the start of a national dialogue during which representatives of the Syrian government and opposition should discuss and agree parameters of a transition period.”
The statement appeared intended to underline that Russia is committed to helping Brahimi seek a solution to the 21-month conflict that would includes talks on a political transition but also continues to oppose making Assad’s exit a precondition.
Brahimi is seeking a solution based on a declaration issued on June 30 after international talks in Geneva which called for a transitional government.
The proposal foundered at the time over the issue of Assad’s fate. Washington said the declaration sent a clear signal that he should quit but Russia said it did nothing of the kind.
The Russian statement on Monday also signalled opposition to Western backing of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, which the United States could soon recognise as the sole representative of the Syrian people.
Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Timothy Heritage