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Russia hopes to see political progress on Syria crisis


MOSCOW – Moscow said Saturday it hoped to see political progress on the Syria crisis in the foreseeable future and urged moves towards presidential and parliamentary polls in the war-torn country.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Rossiya 1 television channel that a “correct understanding” of the situation was developing among Western politicians.

He said the raging migrant crisis in Europe had helped to alter EU politicians’ thinking.

“I am convinced that most serious politicians have learned their lessons and with regards to Syria a correct understanding of the situation is developing even if the anti-Assad rhetoric of ‘democratisation’ is continuing,” he said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“This gives us hope that the political process will move forward in the foreseeable future, by using outside players, to have all Syrians sit at the negotiating table,” Lavrov said in comments released by the foreign ministry.

“Of course, it’s necessary to prepare for both parliamentary and presidential polls,” Lavrov added.

Suggesting that EU politicians now had a better understanding of the Syrian crisis, Russia’s top diplomat added: “The European Union must and is already beginning to recognise the origins of the migrant crisis and chaos in the Middle East.

“They are beginning to remember the way Libya’s former leader Moamer Gathafi was treated, trying to proceed from the illusions that democracy takes root on its own when a dictator is removed.”

The interview was recorded before Lavrov’s talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna on Friday but the transcript was released only on Saturday.

Russia has insisted that Assad’s fate should be decided by his country’s people only, not outside players.

The United States and its allies want Assad to quit power but many of them have said recently his resignation need not be immediate.

The Kremlin does not want to see Assad leave power in disgrace or suffer the fate of Gathafi or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

Some analysts have said that Moscow is not wedded to the idea of Assad remaining in power indefinitely, with some believing that the Kremlin may be nudging him to share power.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned the world by hosting Assad for a surprise summit at the Kremlin, the Syrian leader’s first foreign visit since the crisis erupted in 2011.

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