Russia said Tuesday it wanted to host a new meeting of foreign powers concerning the Syria crisis but stressed that the talks should not decide the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the attempt made in Geneva on June 30 to save international envoy Kofi Annan’s tattered peace plan for the crisis needed to be continued with the involvement countries such as Iran, according to AFP.
“We would welcome organizing another Action Group meeting in Moscow. But we would also not be opposed to Geneva if special representative (Annan) and group participants find this more appropriate,” he told the Interfax news agency.
Bogdanov added that the talks would benefit from the presence of such Syrian allies as Iran -- strongly opposed by both Washington and European powers -- as well opposition group supporters Saudi Arabia and other regional states.
The Geneva talks ended with a broad consensus on the need for a transition of power in Syria but disagreement over Assad’s fate.
Russia stressed that the final text made no mention of the strongman’s future while U.S. Secretary of States Hillary Clinton argued that his ouster was implicit because the plan excluded those with “blood on their hands.”
Bogdanov said Russia was not “holding on to Assad” but defending basic international principles that prevented powerful nations from deciding the internal conflicts of smaller states.
“The fate of a particular leader should be decided by the people in accordance with international legislation,” said Bogdanov.
Meanwhile, the Syrian National Council said in a statement on the eve of a visit to Moscow by the opposition group’s chief that there can be no transition in Syria until President Assad falls.
“Our main goal is to continue on the path of the revolution and the demands of the Syrian people,” the SNC said on Tuesday, emphasizing that its priority was to “work for the fall of the Assad regime and all its symbols.”
The SNC statement came a day before the coalition’s new leader Abdul Basset Sayda was due to travel to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian foreign ministry, it said.
The fall of the Assad regime was a prerequisite, the statement said, “of any negotiations to arrange a transfer of power and the start of a transitional phase.”
Sayda, an outspoken critic of Moscow’s policies towards Damascus, was due to visit Russia two days after top Syrian dissident Michel Kilo made a similar trip.
Russia, a close ally of Damascus, has repeatedly refused to back any international resolution on Syria calling for military intervention in the 16-month-old crisis.
The SNC said it would hold fast to its call on the international community to invoke Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which contemplates military action among other coercive measures.