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DAMASCUS, September 20 (Itar-Tass) — Syria still has potential for straightening out the situation that has developed in the country, vice speaker of the Russian Federation Council upper house of parliament Ilyas Umakhanov said at the end of the visit by a Russian delegation he led to that country.
“I was flying here with fears that mass media, TV channels were close to the truth in how they cover the situation – mass funerals, murders of children and so on,” he said in reply to an Itar-Tass query.
“But the first thing that struck my eye is that the situation looks more stable than on TV screens,” Umakhanov stressed. He said no hysteria is seen, but a calm confidence that this tragic page can be turned over.
“The level of population’s exacerbation is a sharp reflection of social and economic problems. And there is still potential for straightening out the situation,” he stressed.
“The main conclusion that we have drawn and the signal we have received is that the political leadership has realized that these problems do exist and they are serious,” he added.
“This gives me grounds to believe that President Bashar al-Assad has planned reforms and the approval of new laws not as a tactical trick trying to lull vigilance,” Umakhanov noted. “He realizes that an end has come to authoritarian rule and democratic reforms are needed. And this is a strategic course, not a tactical maneuver,” the senator said.
On Sunday, the delegation of Russian senators visited the city of Deraa, where first riots began half-a-year ago, spreading then to the other regions of the country. On Monday, they visited the cities of Homs and Hama to familiarize themselves with the situation there. In particular, they walked through Homs and talked to local residents. In Hama, the senators visited the site of the Officers Club attacked by gunmen as well as visited wounded people at a hospital.
Monday was the last day in the official program of the visit, which began last Saturday. The delegation met with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, Syrian parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Abrash, representatives of the parliamentary Friendship Society and Syrian Supreme Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun. On Monday, the Russian delegation met with Metropolitan Luka, the representative of Ignatius IV Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.
According to Umakhanov, the meeting with the head of state “proceeded in a friendly and open atmosphere”. A decision was reached at it to dispatch a group of Russian reporters to Syria shortly so that they could familiarize themselves with the situation on the spot and report on what they have seen to the public, as well as in order to boost interparliamentary ties for a further contribution to the settlement of the crisis in the country.
“These are mixed feelings of regret about victims among innocent people who found themselves hostages of the situation, and on the other hand – still there is a feeling of optimism that the Syrian people will overcome the crisis and will firmly embark on the path of democratic reforms and transformations,” Umakhanov said after two days of visiting Syrian cities.
On Wednesday upon coming to Moscow, the senators will give a news conference to speak about what they have seen in Syria.