Russia urges sides in Syria to work together

Russia urges sides in Syria to work together

Russia urges sides in Syria to work together

Russian FM Sergey Lavrov (L), greets Deputy PM Qadri Jamil (R), in Russian capital of Moscow. AP photo

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued a new call on July 22 for the Syrian government and opposition to work together to expel all “terrorists and extremists from Syria,” while discussing extending a loan to Damascus to help its war-battered economy.

At the start of talks with Syrian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil, Lavrov said the goal agreed at a meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) major economies last month to expel the “terrorists and extremists” should “become one of the main points of the proposed international [peace] conference.”

“To our regret, unlike the government of Syria, a significant part of the opposition, including the National Coalition, has not expressed such readiness yet,” he said, referring to a largely exiled opposition group.

Russia and the U.S. said on May 7 they would try to bring Syrian government and opposition representatives together at a conference to try to end a conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people since March 2011. No date has yet been set for talks.

Russian loan for Syria

Jamil blamed the West for what he called the “siege” against his country. “The main responsibility for this siege lies in the West, which is the main perpetrator of the ongoing suffering of the Syrian people,” he was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

Jamil also said he expected that a loan from Russia would be arranged by the end of the year, without giving a figure for how much the loan was for. “We discussed it, although it is still too early to talk of concrete figures. We hope that the question will be solved by the end of the year, experts are now discussing it,” he said.

President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is in urgent need of new sources of cash to make ends meet as it battles rebels in the conflict.

The Syrian deputy prime minister added that all arms agreements with Russia, including Moscow’s controversial contract to deliver S-300 missile systems to Damascus, were still in place.

In a separate report, EU foreign ministers agreed yesterday to blacklist Hezbollah’s armed wing, holding it responsible for attacks in Europe. “Agreement reached to list Hezbollah,” an EU diplomat said, as ministers overcame reservations in some member states that such a move would further destabilize Lebanon where the militant group plays a major role. A decision to put the organization on the EU list of terrorist groups required approval by all 28 national ministers.