Russian lawmakers in Damascus, to meet Assad


A group of Russian lawmakers arrived in the Syrian capital Saturday to meet Moscow’s ally President Bashar al-Assad and opposition members in a bid to initiate talks, Interfax news agency reported. ‘Russia cares about the fate of the Syrian people. That’s why we want to find a way to stop a negative scenario developing,’ said Ilias Oumakhanov, vice president of Russia’s upper house.
‘Russia is against any external interference in Syria’s domestic problems and is ready to assist where it can with internal political dialogue, which should take place in a peaceful atmosphere, without victims,’ he said. ‘We intend to asses the situation, lead the consultations with the different political forces,’ he added.
No date was given for the Damascus meeting with Assad, and it was not clear which opposition forces the delegation intended to meet. Russia has continued to support the Syrian regime despite its crackdown on protests that the United Nations estimates to have killed around 2,600 people. Moscow has refused to support Western sanctions against Assad and argued that equal pressure should also be placed on the protesters who refuse to engage Assad in direct talks.
President Dmitry Medvedev has said that some of those taking part in the Syrian demonstration had links to terrorists.