Ousting Assad militarily would enable ISIS to seize Syria – Lavrov

From right: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir in Moscow. © Kirill Kallinikov
The ousting of President Bashar Assad by force would only lead to ISIS seizing power in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned, adding that Islamic State can only be defeated if all forces who are battling it unite.

Speaking at a press conference after negotiations with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Russia’s foreign minister once again warned against a “military solution” regarding Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been targeted by the west and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

“I would not want any powerful state involved in attempts to solve the Syrian crisis to believe that Assad issue may be solved militarily, because the only way of such a military solution is the seizure of power [in Syria] by Islamic State and other terrorists,” Lavrov said, adding: “I don’t think anybody wants that.”

He said that Assad was not posing a threat to any neighboring country, while ISIS is “not just threatening Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia” but also draws maps of its would-be caliphate “from Spain to Pakistan.”

“We’ve got to correlate the scale of threats,” Lavrov said, adding that the only disagreement between Moscow and Riyadh over Syria is the future of President Assad.

Meanwhile, Al-Jubeir said that his country is categorically against a coalition with the Syrian government. Saudi Arabia believes that Assad’s actions “against his own people” were the reason for the emergence of ISIS, he said.

READ MORE: ISIS abducts at least 230 after taking town in Homs province, Syria - monitor group

"We believe that Bashar Assad has no future in Syria. The only question which worries us is how it will be carried out: If it will be a peaceful way through a transition council, or a military way.”

The Russian foreign minister said that Moscow’s initiative to form a common front against ISIS does not imply the creation of a united military force to counter the terrorist group, only coordination between the countries already battling terrorists. This would involve the “regular armies of Syria and Iraq, the Kurds, and units of the armed Syrian opposition backed by external forces,” Lavrov said.

READ MORE: Putin’s initiative to create ‘united front’ to fight ISIS intrigues US, allies – Lavrov

“We don’t mean forming a classic coalition with a general in chief and troops under his command,” Lavrov told reporters. “What we talk about is… to coordinate all those who are already fighting terrorists and make those forces realize that their principal task is fighting terrorism. The Syrians, the Iraqis – all of them could settle accounts later on, when the terror threat is gone.”

Airstrikes of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition alone, without uniting efforts with those fighting ISIS on the ground, cannot bring victory over Islamic State, Lavrov said.

“Not only us, but many foreign military experts believe that without such coordination with all those who fight [Islamic State] terrorists on the ground, US-led coalition airstrikes will not bear fruit and ISIS will not be defeated,” Lavrov said.

The anti-ISIS coalition has been pounding the terrorists with airstrikes for nearly a year now.

The Russian FM also drew attention to the recent tendency of one-sided draft resolutions to the UN Security Council, be it a resolution on the mass killing at Srebrenica during the Bosnian War in 1995 or an international tribunal resolution regarding the tragedy of the MH17 flight shot down over eastern Ukraine last year, both vetoed by Russia.

“Properly speaking, this is not diplomacy, but a desire to turn the UN Security Council into a propaganda instrument, let’s call things by their proper names,” Lavrov said.

“Diplomacy is suffering badly, being damaged by our western colleagues increasingly preferring uncoordinated steps, believing that thus it would be easier to reach their geopolitical goals,” Lavrov said, stressing that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council should shoulder their responsibilities instead of creating artificial problems within the Council.

In this regard, Lavrov particularly criticized the idea from France and Britain on the limitation or outright cancelation of the veto on the UN Security Council. Such ideas are not new, Lavrov said, but have no future.

“The veto right is secured by the UN Charter and any country which ratified it is bound to respect it,” he said.