March 20 (Bloomberg) -- Russia asked Syria to ensure a daily pause in fighting to allow humanitarian access for the International Committee of the Red Cross amid a mounting a death toll in the Middle Eastern country’s yearlong conflict.
The Russian Foreign Ministry joined the Red Cross in asking both sides in the Syrian fighting to agree “immediately” to the daily cessation in hostilities, according to a statement posted on its website late yesterday.
The Geneva-based body’s president, Jakob Kellenberger, met Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow yesterday to raise concerns about the inability to provide aid and medical evacuations in conflict areas. The Red Cross asked for a daily two-hour halt in fighting.
A year of violence in Syria since President Bashar al-Assad started a crackdown on an anti-government uprising has claimed more than 8,000 lives, according to United Nations estimates. Veto-wielding UN Security Council members Russia and China have blocked Western and Arab demands for Assad’s resignation, arguing for talks between the Syrian leader and his opponents.
France today distanced itself from calls by Saudi Arabia for arming Syria’s rebels, which French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said would accelerate a civil war in the country.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do and a large part of the Syrian opposition is opposed as well,” Juppe said in an interview on France2 television.“It’s a profoundly divided country. What we need is a cease-fire, humanitarian aid, and a political process.”
Representatives of Syria’s opposition groups are prepared to hold talks in Moscow and are negotiating the timing of a possible meeting with Russian embassies in Paris and Damascus, Interfax reported today, citing an unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry official.
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