Russia urges Assad to open dialogue with opposition

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Moscow does not back calls on Assad to step down, but “"We actively encouraged… the Syrian leadership to maximally put into action its declared readiness for dialogue with the opposition.” Lavrov spoke to reporters after meeting Thursday with Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad and before his talks Saturday with Syrian peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi. He made it clear that Assad must put all options on the table after 21 months of violence that claimed more than 45,000 lives.

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