US team visits Moscow over Syria crisis

June 8th, 2012 - 10:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, June 8 (IANS/RIA Novosti) US State Department officials Friday met Russian foreign ministry officials in Moscow to try to take a common position on the escalating crisis in Syria.

“A thorough exchange of opinions on methods of promoting a peaceful resolution in Syria took place,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The practical aspects of the Russian proposal to call an urgent international conference on Syria were also discussed,” it said.

Washington’s point man on Syria, Fredrick Hof, was expected to pressure Russia to take a harder line against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the meeting.

Western leaders have called repeatedly for Assad to stand down as leader of the troubled Middle East country.

Russia - along with China - has twice vetoed UN resolutions against Damascus over what it says is a pro-rebel bias. Moscow has, however, fully backed UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria.

The talks came two days after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov dropped a hint that Moscow may be coming round to the West’s view that Assad’s departure was the only solution to the 15 months of bloodshed that has claimed at least 9,000 lives.

“We have never said or insisted that Assad necessarily had to remain in power,” Gatilov said.

But Russia insists it will not sanction UN military intervention against Syria.

The talks came after a fresh massacre in Syria’s central Hama province, just over two weeks after scores of women and children were killed in Houla.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the killings that the Assad regime had “lost its fundamental humanity”.

The Syrian authorities say both massacres were carried out by “terrorists”.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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