No peace can come to Syria without Assad – Lavrov

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov. © Iliya Pitalev / Sputnik
Western expectations of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s imminent fall were misplaced, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Assad has public support, meaning no peaceful resolution of the conflict is possible without his participation, he added.

“All the forecasts made by our colleagues in the West and some other parties that the people would rise up and oust him never came true. This means one thing: Assad represents the interests of a significant part of Syrian society. So no peaceful solution can be found without his participation,” the top Russian diplomat said on Thursday in an interview with Radio Russia.

Earlier US President Barack Obama reiterated he does “not foresee a situation in which we can end the civil war in Syria while Assad remains in power” and that he is not the legitimate leader of Syria.

According to Lavrov, senior officials around the world are coming to realize the truth of Russia’s position on the issue and are beginning to distance themselves from Washington’s policies. Eradicating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) should take precedence over all other issues, he added.

“I believe that [French President Francois] Hollande’s call to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin after those horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, his suggestion to coordinate our efforts and President [Putin’s] response, which was the willingness to do so as allies – those things signify that now level-headed politicians are dropping secondary issues and realizing the need to concentrate on the biggest issue at hand: stopping ISIS’ attempts to spread influence globally,” the minister said.

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Lavrov reminded that countries, such as France or Assad’s long-time enemy Turkey, had earlier insisted the Syrian president should go immediately and called him a magnet for Islamic State.

“This logic dictates that not only Assad is a magnet for ISIS, but also Lebanon, Turkey, France and Egypt,” Lavrov said, naming the four countries where the terrorist group staged successful attacks in October and November. “ISIS is trying to achieve its goal of creating this so-called caliphate regardless of what happens in Syria and the attitude that anyone has towards Bashar Assad.”

The attacks in Paris were some of the worst instances of violence that Europe has seen in decades. It is believed that groups affiliated with IS planted a bomb on a Russian passenger plane in Egypt and organized bombings in Ankara and Beirut. The combined death toll from the four attacks stands at almost 500.

Russia is calling on the US-led coalition to join forces and defeat IS, arguing that a peaceful resolution will only be possible in Syria after violence is stopped.

“We are currently acting in Syria legally and are willing to cooperate in practice with the members of the [US-led] coalition that are prepared to respect Syria’s sovereignty and the goals of the Syrian government,” Lavrov said.

He added that IS terrorist attacks are a threat to world peace and stability and fall under Article 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the UN Security Council to use force.

“I am certain that we must pass a UN Security Council resolution, which would state the need to act in accordance with Chapter 7 of the UN Charter and destroy ISIS. The same as we did after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001,” Lavrov said.

He added that Russia proposed a draft resolution to the UNSC that would call on all nations to join forces against IS in September, but it was opposed by other members of the security body.

“Our Western partners said they didn’t like that the resolution stated that anti-terrorist operations should be coordinated with the governments of the states, where such operations take place,” Lavrov said. “Unfortunately we see the willingness to band together on an anti-terrorist platform only after tragedies. I hope more will not occur – even though it cannot be guaranteed – and that we can act preemptively. Terrorists don’t quarrel; they manage to agree pretty well.”