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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Moscow Denies Seeking Regime Change in Syria

RIA Novosti

20:12 17/04/2013 ISTANBUL, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow is not in the business of bringing about regime change in Syria or legitimizing such attempts, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

The ongoing conflict can only be resolved through negotiations and “without any preconditions,” he said.

“If the number one priority is regime change, or, as they say, [President Bashar] Assad’s departure, then, given that this is objectively impossible, the cost of such a geopolitical approach will evidently be more and more Syrian lives,” Lavrov said.

“Now it is up to those who are insisting on preconditions for dialogue to choose,” he said.

Dialogue between the Syrian government and opposition forces could begin within the next several months, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, the leader of the People’s Will party, said in Moscow on Tuesday.

Representatives of Syrian opposition parties arrived in Russia on Tuesday to discuss the situation in their country, which has been torn apart by an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that began in March 2011.

The delegation included Jamil and National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar, leader of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Jamil said the delegation had met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with whom it discussed ways to solve the crisis, and confirmed that dialogue between the opposing sides in the Syria conflict is the only way out of the current situation.

Earlier in the day, president Assad declared an amnesty for an unspecified number of criminals for crimes committed before April 16, 2013, the Syrian state news agency SANA reported. The same presidential decree replaced the death penalty with a life sentence of hard labor.

About 70,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the uprising against Assad in March 2011, according to UN estimates.

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