Russia’s Medvedev lauds Syria reform plans

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev praised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s reform plans during a telephone conversation on Wednesday, the Kremlin said.

Some protesters in Syria have rejected limited reform gestures by Assad, who has faced demonstrations for greater freedoms in the tightly controlled nation where more than 60 people have been killed in three weeks of unrest.

“The Russian president supported the Syrian leadership’s intention to begin the internal transformations announced by Bashar al-Assad with the aim of preventing the unfavorable development of the situation and human casualties, for the sake of preserving civil peace,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Russia has made efforts to bolster relations with Syria and other Arab Middle East states while also improving ties with Israel. Last May, Medvedev made the first state visit to Syria by a Kremlin chief since Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Medvedev also reiterated Moscow’s opposition to the use of force in Libya. Russia allowed Western military action in Libya by abstaining from an authorization vote in the U.N. Security Council in March.

“We proceed from the assumption that the whole series of conflicts that are taking place should be resolved in a peaceful way, without the participation of troops and on the basis of international mediation,” Medvedev told military officers.

(Reporting by Steve Gutterman)

Russia’s Medvedev lauds Syria reform plans