Russia: We won't oppose Assad's departure in Syria
Russia will not oppose the departure of Syria's President Bashar Assad if such a move is a result of a dialogue between Syrians themselves and is not enforced through external pressure, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.
"If the Syrians agree (about Assad's departure) between each other, we will only be happy to support such a solution," Lavrov told reporters. "But we believe it is unacceptable to impose the conditions for such a dialogue from outside."
Earlier Saturday, Russia amplified its call for an international meeting on Syria, saying sanctions or military intervention would "only aggravate the already difficult atmosphere".
"Our logic is that it is not necessary now to apply additional pressure, to introduce sanctions or use the threat of force," Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the Interfax news agency.
Eager to maintain its firmest Middle East foothold and stop the West pushing governments from power, Russia has used its UN Security Council veto and other tools to protect Assad from coordinated condemnation and sanctions.
"Introducing restrictive or forceful measures clearly will not foster (peace) and will only aggravate the already difficult atmosphere," Gatilov was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile on Saturday, opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) said that the international community must impose a full economic embargo on Syria,
Seventeen people, including 10 women, were killed overnight Friday by shelling in the southern Syrian town of Deraa, where the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted 15 months ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In addition to the deaths in Deraa, the Observatory said 44 civilians were killed across the country on Friday, nearly half of them in the central province of Homs and in Damascus districts and suburbs.
Speaking at a 'Shabbat Tarbut' function in Tel Aviv, Yechimovich said that recent massacres in Syria should be a wake-up call for the world to oust Syrian Assad, who is "breaking records for cruelty."
"There must be a full economic embargo imposed on the Syrian regime in order to isolate Assad, accompanied by a robust aid program for civilians" she said, adding that the international community must immediately break with its half-hearted approach to pressuring Assad.
"Israel is of course prevented from intervening along its northern border, but should make a clear and moral plea to the international community to end its apathy on this issue," she added.