WASHINGTON - The United States Thursday welcomed an apparent shift in Russia's stand on Syria, saying it appeared Moscow was "finally waking up to the reality" that the regime was on its way out.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said earlier the Syrian regime "is losing more and more control over a large part of the country's territory."
Moscow has been a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad since opposition rebels first launched their bid to topple him in March 2011.
With China, it has vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions, backed by the United States, aimed at imposing sanctions.
But Washington believes Moscow may be re-evaluating its stand.
"We want to commend the Russian government for finally waking up to the reality and acknowledging that the regime's days are numbered," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
"I think the question now is, will the Russian government join those of us in the international community who are working with the opposition to try to have a smooth democratic transition?"
The United States has called on all nations with influence in Syria to try to persuade Assad to quit and allow a political transition to begin.
"Our concern is that if we do not all use our influence with those in Syria, we will have a further ripping of the fabric of the country," Nuland told journalists.
"We will have further destruction to important infrastructure, important communities. We will have more tension between communities, which is just going to make it harder to rebuild Syria in a democratic, unified, peaceful, stable direction later."
Russia surprised the United States last week when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to take part with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in three-way talks with UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Dublin.
Top level officials then met at the weekend on Geneva, at which they held "constructive talks," Brahimi said. They discussed ways "to move forward a peaceful process and mobilize greater international action in favor of a political solution to the Syrian crisis."
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