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Russia's Backing Of Syria's Assad May Be Weakening
2012-06-10 02:10:34 (181 weeks ago)
Posted By: Intellpuke
Russia has indicated that it will no longer stand in the way of the departure of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad if that is what Syrians want.

The comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov come despite Russia's insistence that there should be no external intervention in the escalating Syrian conflict.

While the Russian remarks remain obscure on how that political transition might be achieved, they suggest a weakening of Moscow's backing for Assad in the midst of growing international calls for his departure.

"If the Syrians agree [on Assad's departure] between each other, we will only be happy to support such a solution," said Lavrov. "But … it is unacceptable to impose the conditions for such a dialogue from outside."

His comments came as opposition sources claimed that Syrian troops shelled the southern city of Deraa on Saturday, killing at least 17 people.

In Damascus, residents spoke of a Friday night of shooting and explosions in the worst violence that Syria's capital has seen since the uprising against Assad's regime began 15 months ago.

(story continues below)

For the first time in the uprising, said witnesses, regime tanks opened fire in the city's streets, with shells slamming into residential buildings. However, a BBC correspondent, Paul Danahar, who visited one of the areas of the reported clashes in the capital, said he could find no evidence of the street battles reported.

The U.N. said several weeks ago that at least 9,000 people had been killed since the crisis began in March last year, while Syrian activists say the violence has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people.

The latest violence follows the visit on Friday by U.N. observers to the deserted village of Mazraat al-Qubair, where activists say 80 people were massacred earlier last week by pro-government militia. The Assad regime claims only nine people died in the village, at the hands of "terrorists".

The scene held evidence of a "horrific crime", said U.N. spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh.

Ghosheh said the residents' accounts of the mass killing were "conflicting", and that the U.N. needed to cross-check the names of the missing and dead with those supplied by nearby villagers.

Intellpuke: You can read this article by The Observer's Foreign Affairs Editor Peter Beaumont in context here:

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