Syrian Opposition to Meet Lavrov Amid Drive for Peace Agreement

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov plans to meet a senior Syrian opposition leader, marking his highest-level contact with government opponents as Russia urges implementation of an Arab League-brokered peace accord.

Lavrov will host Burhan Ghalioun, a member of the Syrian National Council, for talks in Moscow tomorrow and plans to warn him about unleashing a scenario in Syria that led to prolonged fighting in Libya, according to comments posted on the ministry’s website today.

“The battle for power can become a goal in itself, but you have to think of your country and people,” Lavrov said. He criticized the Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria’s membership as “incorrect” and accused Western countries of sabotaging the Arab proposal to end the violence in Syria by encouraging the opposition to reject all dialogue.

Russia, which together with China blocked an Oct. 4 United Nations resolution that threatened punitive measures against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, strongly backed the Arab League plan accepted by Syria earlier this month.

After a continuing crackdown by security forces, the Arab League said Nov. 12 that Syria will be barred from the group’s meetings until it withdraws tanks from cities, releases detained protesters and starts supervised talks with the opposition.

The Syrian national council, an umbrella movement uniting several of Syria’s opposition groups formed on Oct. 2, is aiming to oust Assad and put him on trial for the violence against protesters. More than 3,500 people have been killed in Syria since March, according to the UN.

Assad has blamed foreign provocateurs and Islamic militants for the violence surrounding anti-government protests that erupted in March.

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