Russia and the Arab League have called for dialogue between the government and the opposition in Syria and agreed to push the warring sides to do so.

End to violence

A joint Russia-Arab League statement adopted here stressed “the need for an early end to violence and the start of dialogue between the government and the opposition on the basis of the June 30, 2012 Geneva communique”, said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Mr. Lavrov met on Wednesday Arab League Secretary-General Nabil ElArabi, and the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon at the first meeting of the Russian-Arab League forum. The decision to launch the forum was taken in 2009.

Both sides said their goal was to facilitate the formation of a “transitional government body with full executive powers” to end the two-year-long conflict in accordance with the agreements reached at the Geneva conference.

Mr. El-Arabi said he and Mr. Lavrov “reached consensus” on that goal.

Mr. Lavrov said supporters of the Syrian opposition appeared ready to make the rebels sit down for talks with the government.

“Until recently, there were those who discouraged the opposition from engaging in such a dialogue. Now, as I understand, the situation is changing, and it is very important that the readiness of Syrian opposition leaders for dialogue be matched by the government,” Mr. Lavrov told a joint press conference with the Arab League delegation.

Positive signs

The Russian Foreign Minister said he saw “signs of positive tendencies” in Syria.

“For now both sides are still setting preconditions but, according to our common view, once there is the key common readiness to start dialogue, then agreeing parameters for this process is just a matter of diplomatic art,” he said.

“We have agreed today to use the opportunities available to Russia and the Arab League to facilitate at the earliest direct contact between representatives of the government and the opposition in Syria.”

Mr. Lavrov will receive his Syrian counterpart Walid Al-Muallem in Moscow next week, and the head of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Moaz Alkhatib, is “likely” to visit Russia in March, the Russian Foreign Minister said.