* Lavrov calls for inclusive Syrian opposition, talks
* Qatari FM says differences remained after talks
* Moscow eyes bigger regional role in Middle East
By Asma Alsharif
RIYADH, Nov 14 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov condemned the bloodshed in Syria as "outrageous" on
Wednesday and urged opponents of President Bashar al-Assad
inside and outside the country to form a united front to end the
Lavrov met with foreign ministers of the six-member Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC) for more than two hours in Riyadh but
failed to reach common ground on how to end the bloodshed that
has claimed more than 38,000 lives in Syria.
Lavrov was hoping to raise Moscow's profile in a region
where its influence is at risk after blocking three United
Nations resolutions meant to put pressure on Assad to end the
"We believe the bloodshed should be stopped," Lavrov told a
joint news conference with the Bahraini Foreign Minister, Sheikh
Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, after the talks in the Saudi
"What is happening in Syria is outrageous," he added,
speaking through an interpreter.
Sheikh Khaled said the two sides agreed to "keep working
together to remove obstacles and points of disagreement" through
further dialogue and meetings at various levels.
The 20-month-old Syrian uprising has further strained
traditionally uneasy ties between Russia and Saudi Arabia, a key
ally of the United States.
SECOND VISIT TO MIDDLE EAST
It was Lavrov's second Middle East visit in less than two
weeks. Last week in Cairo he embraced an Egyptian-backed drive
to bring together four regional powers to seek a solution to the
Saudi Arabia, which supports the rebels fighting to topple
Assad, has skipped two ministerial meetings of the group, which
includes Egypt and Turkey - also critics of Assad - and Iran,
Syria's closest regional ally.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr
al-Thani said no breakthrough was made in the talks.
"We have spoken at length on the situation in Syria and how
to find solutions," Sheikh Hamad told journalists after the
talks. "We have a point of view and our friends in Russia have a
point of view and they did not converge."
Lavrov had hoped to persuade Saudi Arabia to back the
inclusion of Iran in peace efforts on Syria. Saudi Arabia sees
Iran as part of the problem because of its support for Assad.
Diplomats have said it was hard to see Saudi Arabia agreeing
to bring in Iran into any talks on Syria.
"There is no way in the world Saudi Arabia would sit down to
talks with Iran - and even if it did, it would not be Russia
convincing them to do that. So this trip really is just about
Russia trying to be present in the Middle East," a diplomatic
source in Moscow said.
Russia has insisted that any new U.N. resolution should be
based on a June 30 agreement reached by international powers in
Geneva that envisaged a transitional government in Syria.
The United States said the deal signalled to Assad that he
must leave power, while Russia disagreed. Neither Iran nor Saudi
Arabia were represented at the talks, with Washington, London
and Paris accusing Tehran of helping Assad crush the uprising.
Back then, Russia was saying both should have been invited.
"The Russians would like to broker some sort of arrangement
on Syria, a managed transition that will preserve their equities
and those of their clients in Syria," said Nikolas Gvosdev,
professor at the U.S. Naval War College.
Asked to comment about the new Syrian opposition coalition
set up at a conference last week in Qatar, Lavrov said that the
opposition remained incomplete without Assad's opponents inside
"We urge the opposition groups to get united and form a
negotiating team. Without attracting the internal opposition, it
is hard to believe that this process is inclusive," he said.
Chilly ties between Moscow and Riyadh date to the Soviet war
in Afghanistan in the 1980s, when Saudi Arabia backed
anti-Russian militants. Russia has been concerned by the
presence of Saudi and other Arab militants fighting in the
post-Soviet wars in Chechnya and the Islamist insurgency they
A diplomatic source in Moscow said Lavrov's visit may be a
"damage control" attempt after Riyadh condemned as hostile
remarks by a Russian official who in July expressed "great
concern" over human rights in Saudi Arabia.