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Russia says wants Syria elections, ready to help Free Syrian Army

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday the Kremlin wanted Syria to prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections and that Moscow was ready to provide air support to the Free Syrian Army.

Lavrov's comments represented a dramatic shift in Russia's position and followed a meeting in Vienna on Friday with the United States and other countries to discuss a political solution to the Syria crisis.

"External players can not decide anything for the Syrians. We must force them to come up with a plan for their country where the interests of every religious, ethnic and political group will be well protected," Lavrov told Russian state TV.

"Of course they need to prepare for both parliamentary and presidential elections."

Lavrov said he felt other countries were finally beginning to better understand the situation in Syria despite their continued rhetoric aimed against President Bashar al-Assad, a shift he said gave Moscow hope that the political process there could be moved forward in the foreseeable future.

Russia also stood ready to provide air support to the Free Syrian Army, said Lavrov, if the United States would help it identify where what he called "the patriotic opposition" was. He said the continued U.S. refusal to coordinate its campaign in Syria with Moscow was "a big mistake."