Russia warns over 'regime change' in Syria
Russia Thursday warned Syria's opposition to President Bashar al-Assad against destabilising the country and told the West not to provoke the situation for the sake of "regime change".
Syrian opposition groups were meeting in Turkey to discuss plans to support the revolt against Assad's regime, dismissing his calls for dialogue as a belated move.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking in Moscow, called on the Syrian opposition to demonstrate a more "responsible" behaviour.
"If these opposition groups think only about continuing to outright reject everything that is being proposed by the Syrian authorities then it would be an absolutely irresponsible approach," Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying.
"The international community should see this picture in its entirety and not allow to provoke the situation for the sake of regime change," he was quoted as saying.
Assad's regime has over the past weeks been engaged in a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests, fearing they will build into successful revolutions like those that swept away autocracies in Egypt and Tunisia.
As the situation in Syria escalated, Moscow has clashed with the West, blocking a proposed Security Council statement condemning the violence and saying regime change in Syria would send shockwaves across the Middle East.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said his country would never support the use of force against its traditional ally and spoken to Assad twice over the past weeks urging him to launch reforms.
On Wednesday, Assad launched a "national dialogue" initiative while freeing hundreds of political prisoners but the Syrian opposition and Washington have said the move does not go far enough.
"Attempts to destabilise Syria will have catastrophic consequences," Lavrov was quoted as saying at a news conference after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolay Mladenov.
"We are also convinced that by urging restraint in the Syrian situation, we should address these calls not only to the authorities but the opposition as well," he said, adding some armed opposition groups behaved in a "rather brazen" manner.
© 2011 AFP