Russia is ready to host talks between the Syrian opposition and President Bashar al-Assad in a bid to end the country’s conflict, its U.N. envoy said Wednesday.
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin made the offer as he stepped up Russian attacks on the United States and European countries for saying they will seek to increase pressure on Assad outside of the U.N. Security Council.
Russia has sought to regain the diplomatic initiative since vetoing a western-backed Security Council resolution that would have threatened sanctions against Assad.
Russia will “press for inter-Syrian dialogue,” Churkin told a council debate on the Middle East.
“To further this we are ready to give the opposition and the government a platform in Moscow to forge contacts to unify the opposition and for negotiations with the government,” he said.
Syrian opposition groups are divided, but nearly all have said there can be no talks on a political accord to end the 16-month-old conflict while Assad stays in power.
Russia has protected its Soviet-era ally, however, and last week, with China, vetoed a Council resolution on Syria for the third time to the outrage of western nations.
The consequences of the vetos are “clear,” Britain’s U.N. ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said, highlighting the “further violence and bloodshed, and a deteriorating situation that is now spilling over the borders and sucking in the region.”
The United States, Britain, France and Germany have said they will seek action against the Syrian government outside the council. All have rejected providing military aid to the Syrian opposition, however.
Churkin said that the western action “leads to a worsening escalation of the confrontation.”
“The United States has spoken of its intention to circumvent the Security Council,” the Russian envoy said.
“Really, there is nothing new in this. Such a policy has been followed by Washington and a number of other capitals since the beginning of the crisis in Syria and this has significantly exacerbated it.”
The western nations “will likely bear the burden of responsibility for the likely catastrophic consequences of such acts,” Churkin said.