Russia welcomes Syria decree on constitution

THE HAGUE — Russia Wednesday welcomed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s decree calling for a referendum on a new constitution ending single-party rule for the violence-wracked country.

By (AFP)

Published: Wed 15 Feb 2012, 7:12 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 2:17 PM

“We certainly believe a new constitution to end one-party rule in Syria is a step forward. It is a welcome idea and we hope the constitution will be adopted,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in The Hague.

Lavrov was speaking after talks with his Dutch counterpart Uri Rosenthal during a two-day visit to the Netherlands.

Syria’s official SANA news agency earlier reported that Assad had issued a decree setting Sunday, February 26, as the date for the referendum, which would usher in a “new era” for Syria.

Under the new charter, freedom is “a sacred right” and “the people will govern the people” in a multi-party democratic system based on Islamic law, state television reported.

The proposed constitution does away with Article 8 of the old charter which declared the Baath Party, in power since 1963, as the “leader of the state and society.”

Russia stands as one of the world’s last major friends of Assad, using its veto power with China this month to block a Security Council resolution condemning the regime for the violence.

With the death toll rising to more than 6,000 according to figures from the opposition, Lavrov held direct talks with Assad in Damascus earlier this month, refusing to join growing calls on him to step down.

Although his mission was widely criticised by Arab nations and produced no tangible concessions, Lavrov has cited it as an example for the need for further dialogue.

He said on Monday that Assad had appointed his Vice President Faruq al-Shara as a formal representative in charge of negotiations with the opposition, and urged the regime’s foes to use this chance to open direct talks.

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