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Russian, Egyptian Envoys Urge Cease-Fire In Syria

Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammad Amr (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrive for a bilateral meeting in Moscow on December 28.
MOSCOW -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met in Moscow with his Egyptian counterpart, Muhammad Amr, for talks that included discussion of the ongoing crisis in Syria.

After the December 28 meeting, Lavrov told journalists the international community must stop pressuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and should avoid establishing preconditions for negotiations.

"The international community should not incite any party to continue bloodshed or put forward any preconditions but encourage all fighting parties to take the path outlined by the Geneva communique," Lavrov said.

In Geneva in June, officials representing the five permanent member of the UN Security Council and several other Middle East states agreed on steps for establishing a transitional government in Syria.

At the December 28 news conference, Lavrov said that Moscow was prepared to meet with members of the Syrian opposition.

"We have already established contact, through our embassy in Cairo, with the leadership of the [Syrian opposition] coalition," Lavrov said. "We have expressed readiness to meet with the [coalition] chairman, Mr. [Mouaz] al-Khatib. We are still ready to do that and, as we understand, they don't have any objections to such a meeting."

He also said Assad was willing to meet with opposition representatives for talks based on the June 30 Geneva communique.

However, dpa quoted Syrian opposition spokesman Walid al-Bunni as saying that "we will only accept a political solution that does not include any of Assad's family."

Lavrov criticized the Syrian opposition's refusal to deal with Assad.

"We were disappointed that [the Syrian opposition coalition], in its political statement issued at the time of its establishment in Doha, stated as its main objective the overthrow of the regime and the dismantling of all institutions," Lavrov said.

UN-Arab League envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is expected in Moscow for talks with Lavrov on December 29. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Brahimi was also scheduled to hold talks in the United States in January.

On December 27, Lavrov met in Moscow with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad.

Meanwhile in Syria, rebels attacked a key army base in the northwest province of Idlib on December 28.

The attack on the base aims to cut the main supply route for reinforcements from Damascus to Syria's northern city of Aleppo.

Witness reports say Syrian troops are using warplanes to strike around the base in an effort to defend it.

With additional reporting by AP and Interfax
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