Russia: Working with Syria to end violence, start talks

MOSCOW - A Russian diplomat said on Monday that Moscow was working with the Syrian authorities to seek an end to violence and the start of talks with their opponents, but stopped short of publicly pressing the government to meet a military withdrawal deadline.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem was expected to arrive in Moscow on Monday and meet his Russian counterpart on Tuesday, the deadline for Syrian government forces to withdraw from cities and towns under mediator Kofi Annan's peace plan.
Moscow is "working actively with Damascus in order to begin a political settlement process in (Syria)," state-run Itar-Tass news agency quoted Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying.
Gatilov reiterated Russia's opposition to interference in Syria, where it says any change in the government must result from an internal Syrian political process and not pressure from foreign countries calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad's resignation.
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