Saturday, February 17, 2018

Russian envoy calls Syria visit 'very productive'

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Russia's foreign minister visited Syria's top leaders in Damascus on Tuesday, at a moment when Western and Arab nations are withdrawing ambassadors and trying to isolate Syria diplomatically over its increasingly violent response to the 11-month-old popular uprising in the country.

The foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, was greeted by thousands of pro-government Syrians. He pronounced his visit as "very productive."

The Russian diplomatic effort came as the United States, which has criticized Russia's stance over the Syria crisis, suggested that it may provide "humanitarian aid to Syrians" without specifying how or to whom.

Russia, along with China, vetoed an Arab League-backed resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Saturday that called on President Bashar Assad to hand over some powers as part of a plan to defuse the crisis. The Russians insisted that the resolution amounted to outside interference in Syria's affairs.

At the same time, the Kremlin is sensitive to the perception that Russia had given Assad a green light to violently crush his political opponents. So Lavrov, and Mikhail Fradkov, the head of the Russian foreign intelligence service, were sent to Syria on Tuesday with what the Russians said was a proposal to end the crisis; its substance was not divulged.

"We have had a very productive visit with the leadership of Syria," Lavrov said after his meeting with Assad, according to the Ria Novosti news service. Lavrov also said Assad was prepared to hold talks with the opposition.

Further details were not disclosed, and it remained unclear whether Russia possessed the diplomatic clout to significantly influence the situation.

There was no immediate comment from Assad or from the voices of opposition in Syria.

The visit came a day after the United States temporarily closed its Damascus embassy. Germany, Spain, Belgium and France followed Britain in recalling their ambassadors.

Arab Persian Gulf countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, expelled Syrian ambassadors on Tuesday and recalled their ambassadors from Damascus for consultations.

Violence has surged the past week in Syria, in particular around the city of Homs, Syria's third largest. Syria's Interior Ministry said the assault on Homs would continue until all resistance is defeated, in a sign that the government believes that it can defeat the opposition by force.

Activists said at least 15 people were killed in violence around the country Tuesday.

Comments

Archer believes Rays could have best rotation in majors

Chris Archer believes Rays capable of having the best starting pitching rotation in the major leagues
Updated: 9 minutes ago

Vatican investigator meets with Chile abuse victim in NYC

A key victim in the Chilean sex abuse scandal says he feels his story finally has been heard after meeting with a Vatican sex-crimes investigator for more than three hours
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Biden, in public and private, tiptoes toward a 2020 run

Biden, in public and private, tiptoes toward a 2020 run

Former Vice President Joe Biden is tiptoeing toward a potential run in 2020, even broaching the possibility during a recent gathering of longtime foreign policy aides
Updated: 10 minutes ago

AP Top News at 4:59 p.m. EST

AP Top News at 4:59 p.m. EST
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Barcelona wins at Eibar 2-0 before trip to Chelsea in CL

Barcelona wins at Eibar 2-0 before trip to Chelsea in CL

Lionel Messi helped set up two goals to earn a 2-0 victory at 10-man Eibar as Barcelona warmed up for their visit to Chelsea in the Champions League
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Royals lefty Duffy hoping to put tumultuous 2017 behind him

Royals lefty Duffy hoping to put tumultuous 2017 behind him

Kansas City Royals pitcher Danny Duffy is hoping to put a tumultuous 2017 behind him
Updated: 13 minutes ago

Auburn starter McLemore taken off court on stretcher

Auburn starting forward Anfernee McLemore left the court on a stretcher after a gruesome-looking injury to his left leg late in the first half against South Carolina
Updated: 14 minutes ago

Saturday's Scores

Saturday's Scores
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Indiana rallies, holds off Iowa 84-82

Indiana rallies, holds off Iowa 84-82

Robert Johnson scored a career-high 29 points on nine 3s and Indiana rallied from an early 13-point deficit to beat host Iowa 84-82 and pick up its fourth straight victory
Updated: 16 minutes ago
7.2 quake damages homes, but Mexico avoids major destruction

7.2 quake damages homes, but Mexico avoids major destruction

Mexico has escaped major destruction from Friday's magnitude 7.2 earthquake, with mostly minor damage and no deaths directly caused by the temblor five months after two other quakes killed hundreds
Updated: 16 minutes ago