Russia not siding with Assad in Syria: minister

Russia said Friday it "categorically" rejected the idea it was siding with Bashar al-Assad's regime in the Syria conflict, after Moscow's position was slammed at the Friends of Syria meeting in Paris.

"I categorically reject the formulation that Russia supports (President) Bashar al-Assad's regime in the situation that has developed in Syria," said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

Earlier US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top Western diplomats strongly criticised Moscow's stance at the Paris meeting, which was attended neither by Russia nor its chief diplomatic ally China.

Ryabkov countered: "What the Russian Federation is engaged in is not supporting specific politicians or political figures in Syria, but in work that we hope will help create the important dialogue between the authorities and the opposition."

"The issue is not supporting specific political figures or leaders, but putting the process of regulating the crisis on a normal political basis," he said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.

Clinton blasted both Russia and China at the meeting for "standing up for the regime," saying they are "holding up progress" in the regulation of the conflict and urged countries to press Moscow and Beijing on the issue.

She added that assistance from Russia was one of the few things keeping the regime afloat. "That is no longer tolerable," she said.

But Ryabkov accused the West of being stuck in a Cold War mindset.

"Unfortunately, we cannot press our partners, including Western ones, to understand several basic things. The West is still operating with the notions of 'ours-theirs', 'who is whose client,' and so forth."

"We had the impression that such terminology should be left in the past. If it is still employed by these politicians, that means they are behind in their thinking," he said.

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