First Published: 2013-01-27


Another Russian volte-face: Assad made grave error over reforms


Medvedev accuses Assad of having made 'grave, perhaps fatal error' by delaying political reforms, as Damascus courts opposition forces.


Middle East Online

Assad chances of staying are shrinking day by day

MOSCOW - Russia's prime minister on Sunday accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of having made a "grave, perhaps fatal error" by delaying political reforms, as Damascus courted opposition forces.

"He should have acted much more quickly and reached out to the peaceful opposition which was ready to sit at the negotiating table with him," Russian news agencies quoted Dmitri Medvedev as saying.

"It's a grave error on his part, perhaps fatal," he said, in a rare criticism of Assad by Syria's traditional ally Moscow.

"It seems to me that his chances of staying (in power) are shrinking day by day," Medvedev said in remarks to CNN television on the sidelines of the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Syria's high judicial council, meanwhile, announced a suspension of prosecutions of opposition members so they can join a national dialogue, state media reported.

"The high judicial council has decided to discontinue all prosecutions against opposition forces and individuals so they may participate in the national dialogue," the official news agency SANA said, without elaborating.

On Saturday, Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar vowed to ease the return of opposition members living in exile to allow them to join a national dialogue proposed by Assad on January 6.

In a rare speech, Assad proposed a dialogue with opposition figures who were not "slaves of the West" and on condition that "terrorist attacks" came to a halt.

The regime has consistently branded activists and insurgents alike as terrorists.

Shaar, in comments reported by state media, cautioned that the directive allowing Syrian opposition figures living abroad to return was not a blanket amnesty.

"Executive orders will be issued to border crossings to facilitate and guarantee that all political opposition forces may enter the country, maintain residency and leave at will," Shaar said.

He emphasised that "there is a big difference between those who safeguard their nation and those who are complicit in foreign agendas."

Medvedev on Sunday reiterated Russia's stand that only the Syrian people can decide the fate of Assad, whose departure the West has long called for in the face of a 22-month uprising that has left over 60,000 dead according to the UN.

The message came a day after Syria's deputy prime minister, Qadri Jamil, said Russia was still "fulfilling its obligations" to supply weapons to Damascus.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced that his government would prepare for the risk of Syria losing control over its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

On the ground in Syria, violence raged between rebels and loyalists, a day after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 127 people killed nationwide.

Fighting erupted in the Port Said area of south Damascus and spread to the nearby Qadam train terminal, while the army shelled nearby districts.

On the Damascus outskirts, warplanes pounded the Eastern Ghuta region, the watchdog said, while an activist network reported shelling against the southwest suburb of Daraya from Mazzeh military airport and by the elite Fourth Division.

A Syrian security source said late last year that the army's bid to push insurgents from their rear bases around Damascus was aimed at securing an upper hand in any future dialogue.


Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting