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Direct talks in Syrian standoff unlikely: Russia

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Moscow : Russia does not see any prospect of direct talks between the government and opposition in Syria in the near future, a minister has said.

Despite a month-old ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and the deployment of over 180 UN observers in flashpoint areas, clashes between the opposition forces and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad continue.

“There are no signs indicating that either side is willing to negotiate,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.

Gatilov said the split in Syrian opposition continued to hamper the attempts to advance the negotiations.

Russia has again invited several opposition groups, including those abroad, to hold talks in Moscow in a bid to unite multiple opposition groups and facilitate their dialogue with the government, he added.

Gatilov said a new UN resolution on Syria may be necessary following a final report of a UN mission in the country, but Russia would not support any “amorphous” document, especially one that would call for military intervention.

Russia has twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions on Syria over what it said was a pro-rebel bias, but gave its full backing to Annan’s peace plan, which Damascus also supported.

The Russian minister reiterated that sending peacekeepers to Syria was not on the current UN agenda as their involvement in the country torn by a deep political crisis should be approved by the Syrian government.

“Without an agreement from Damascus this mission would not be peacekeeping,” Gatilov said.

According to the UN, more than 9,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.