Russian position on Syria 'unchanged'
A senior Russian envoy said after talks in Damascus on Monday that there was no change in Russian policy on Syria which has been opposed to Western calls for sanctions, Syrian state media said.
"Russia's position on Syria is unchanged," the official SANA news agency quoted deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov as saying.
"The envoy affirmed his country's support for the reforms launched by Syria in the political and economic fields and expressed hope that its security and stability would be maintained," the agency added.
The Russian envoy, who held talks with both President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, underlined the "importance of continued coordination between the two countries in all fields."
For his part, Assad expressed his appreciation for Russia's "balanced approach to developments in Syria," SANA added.
The Kremlin confirmed in a statement that President Dmitry Medvedev had sent a message to Assad but did not reveal its contents.
Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin had said last week that Moscow would send an envoy to Damascus, as the UN Security Council remained divided over new sanctions on Syria over its deadly crackdown on dissent.
Moscow staunchly opposes attempts by Western governments to push through a UN Security Council resolution targeting Assad and has circulated an alternative draft.
The Russian text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, urges Syria to expedite reforms.
Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and the United States drew up their draft resolution last week but Russia and China have refused to attend informal talks on the document.
Russia has hinted it could veto any sanctions resolution put to a vote.
Moscow's rival text "calls upon the Syrian government to expedite the implementation of reforms in order to effectively address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syria's people."
But it also "urges the Syrian opposition to engage in political dialogue" with the Assad government on reforms.
Churkin has said the proposed Russian resolution already had "strong support" from some nations on the 15-member council.
According to UN estimates, more than 2,200 people have been killed in the Syrian regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters since mid-March.
© 2011 AFP