A man walks past buildings destroyed in an air strike by regime forces in the Syrian town of Atareb on November 7, 2012
A man walks past buildings destroyed in an air strike by regime forces in the northern Syrian town of Atareb on November 7, 2012. Russia has expressed fear the conflict in Syria between President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces that began nearly two years ago could be protracted with no clear outcome. © Philippe Desmazes - AFP/File
A man walks past buildings destroyed in an air strike by regime forces in the Syrian town of Atareb on November 7, 2012
AFP
Last updated: January 22, 2013

Russia fears protracted Syria conflict

Russia expressed fear on Tuesday that the conflict in Syria between President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces that began nearly two years ago could be protracted with no clear outcome.

"You know at first the forecasts were two to three months, four, and it is already two years," Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bodganov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

"So the situation can develop in different ways. I think it could become protracted in nature."

Russia -- which still maintains relations with the Assad regime -- has come under repeated pressure from the West to call on the Syrian leader to quit but has insisted it is up to the Syrian people to decide their future.

Bogdanov also said the Russian foreign ministry wanted to have more contact with various Syrian opposition groups as it seeks to help broker a solution to the conflict.

"A lot of opposition leaders are in Paris (and) Istanbul. Others are in other cities, in Geneva," Bogdanov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

"So we do not rule out that in the near future there will be contacts even with several new opposition groups, with those we have not been in touch with yet."

He added that one such opposition group which was based in Europe "had not yet got in touch with us but wanted to have dialogue with us."

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