Russia, China, urge Syria talks, stress U.N. role

MOSCOW Fri Nov 25, 2011 8:45am GMT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia, China and their partners in the BRICS group of emerging economies urged Syria to start talks with the opposition and warned against foreign intervention without U.N. backing, Russia said, ahead of an Arab League deadline to Damascus on Friday.

In a carefully worded statement after consultations on Thursday in Moscow, the five nations did not mention the Arab League threat to introduce sanctions over Syria's crackdown on protests if Damascus does not sign a deal to let monitors in.

The meeting brought together deputy foreign ministers from Russia and China, which last month vetoed a Western-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria's government, as well as Brazil, India and South Africa, which abstained.

They "underscored that the only acceptable scenario for resolving the internal crisis in Syria is the immediate start of peaceful talks with the participation of all sides, as the Arab League initiative says," the Foreign Ministry statement said.

"Any external intervention that does not correspond with the United Nations Charter must be ruled out."

France became the first major power to seek international intervention when it called this week for "humanitarian corridors" to alleviate civilian suffering.

The communique said the nations "placed a special accent on the role of (the U.N. Security Council), which holds primary responsibility for the support of international peace and security."

The United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed in Syria since March in clashes between the authorities and pro-democracy protesters.

Former ally Turkey has joined other countries calling on President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Russia has close ties to Syria, which has been a big buyer of Russian weapons and hosts a Russian naval maintenance facility on the Mediterranean, a rare outpost abroad for the Russian military.

Moscow has been increasingly isolated in its support for Assad. It has urged his government to implement reforms faster, but has rejected pressure from Syrian opposition groups to call for his resignation and has accused Western nations of trying to set the stage for armed intervention.

Referring to the entire Middle East and North Africa region, the communique said BRICS nations noted "the need for the complete adherence to human rights by all sides, in particular the authorities, in regard to protecting unarmed civilians," but they laid no specific blame on any side in Syria.

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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