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Russia Accuses U.S. Of Supporting ‘Extremists’ in Syria

la-fg-wn-putin-syria-assad-20121220-002Russia remains one of Syria’s few allies as rebel forces continue to gain international support. A statement from Moscow condemned U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry’s commitment to providing $60 million in nonlethal aid to opposition forces who are determined to cast out the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Kerry met with Syrian opposition leaders in Rome earlier this week. Syria has been in a state of civil war since March 2011. In January, the United Nations placed the death toll of the conflict at over 60,000.

“The decisions taken in Rome and also the statements that were voiced there both in spirit and literally, encourage the extremists to take power by force regardless of would-be inevitable suffering of ordinary Syrians,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in the statement posted on the ministry website. “In our view, the urgent task of today is to immediately halt the bloodshed and any violence and turn to a political dialogue.”

Both sides of the Syrian conflict have made it clear that there will be little compromise in negotiation. Rebel forces have refused to entertain any negotiations that would preserve Assad’s regime, while the government is unwilling to cooperate with what it believes to be Western interests.

Though Russia has supported Assad’s regime throughout the conflict, it has failed to initiate any meaningful peace talks on behalf of the Syrian government.

French President Francois Hollande identified the Syrian conflict as one of the topics of conversation during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday.

Hollande made a 24-hour trip to Moscow to try to re-establish trade partnerships with Russia, but also questioned the country’s human rights practices both domestically and abroad.

Putin put forth a relatively passive assessment of the Syrian crisis compared to the statement issued by the foreign ministry.

“I think we must listen to the opinion of our [Western] partners as to some aspects of this not-so-simple problem,” Putin said, referring to Syria. “It seems to me that we would need to sit over a bottle of vodka — a bottle of good wine wouldn’t be enough — to sort these things out.”

In the past few months, Russia has been evacuating its citizens from Syria. Several weeks ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Assad to end the two-year conflict, adding that continuing the military path would only lead to destruction for both sides.

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