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.

 

Essebsi wins Tunisia election to become first freely elected President

U-turn: Qatar pledges 'full support' to Sisi's Egypt

Syria civil war has cost tiny neighbour Lebanon more than $ 20 billion

UAE blames 'irresponsible' non-OPEC output for oil price plunge

Arts Canteen London presents Attab Haddad: Iraqi oud with a western twist

Israel charges Palestinians for ‘inciting violence on Facebook’

Erdogan slams birth control as ‘treason’ against Turkey ambitions

Hollande urges ‘utmost vigilance’ after brutal weekend attacks in France

Turkey graft scandal: Four ex-ministers await decision on their fate

Berlin seeks to set up trauma centre for IS rape victims

Syria claims downing of Israeli reconnaissance drone

Rafah border crossing reopens for two days

Israel parliament approves funding for settler tourism plan

Five jihadists killed in clashes with Egypt police

Essebsi claims victory in Tunisia presidential poll

Coalition targets ‘Islamic State’ in areas north of Aleppo

Libya Islamist-backed government urges foreigners to return to Tripoli

Palestinians enter Egypt as Rafah crossing reopens for two days

Davutoglu accuses EU of 'dirty campaign' against Turkey

Raid on terrorists accidentally kills Saudi youth in Awamiya town

Egypt sentences ‘spy for Israel’ to ten years in prison

Jordan ends eight-year moratorium on death penalty

Egypt President removes powerful spy chief

Barzani in Mount Sinjar after end of jihadist siege

Tunisia votes for president in final leg of democratic transition

Turkey acquits sociologist over 1998 explosion

EU foreign affairs head to visit Iraq

Turkey court remands Samanyolu TV chief in custody

IS threatens to kill Lebanese soldiers held hostage

Obama concerned about Egypt mass trials

Tough times for oil-rich GCC

Tumbling oil prices cut budgets of Mideast arms exporters

Iraq’s peshmerga ‘break’ Mount Sinjar siege

Turkish media chiefs charged with terrorism

Iraq may delay payment of Kuwait war reparations

Over $900 million needed to help Syria children

Saudi rules out oil output reduction

Dutch populist lawmaker to be tried for 'fewer Moroccans' vow

Outrage in Algeria over Islamist call for Algerian author's death

Iraq Kurds, coalition launch offensive to retake Sinjar

Three years to end Israeli occupation in UN resolution

Yemen’s Huthis seize Sanaa state offices

Somalia appoints new PM after bitter infighting

Blow to Israel: EU court removes Hamas from terror blacklist

Sharp rise in Syria passport applications