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16 May, 2013 21:42

Syria not a bargaining chip in relations with West – Lavrov

Syria not a bargaining chip in relations with West – Lavrov

Moscow will make no “backstage” agreements on Syria in exchange for Western concessions on missile defense or any other disputed issues, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

“This is not serious. I think that those who try suggest that indulge in wishful thinking,” Lavrov said in an interview with Lebanon's Al Mayadeen TV channel.

Everyone knows well that Russia’s stance on a whole range of crucial issues is not opportunistic,” the Russian top diplomat emphasized.  

At the same time, he pointed out, this does not mean that Moscow’s position on such issues is definitive.

We defend only the things that are in the basis of modern world order - the US Charter principles and other international legal documents, and we insist on their fulfillment,” Lavrov said. “We do not want and we will not put up with attempts to distort reached agreements, particularly the legally binding ones,” he underlined.

However, within the framework of these principles and agreements, Moscow is ready to look for compromises, acceptable primarily for the sides of the conflict.

Lavrov reiterated that Russia does not support President Bashar Assad in the Syrian conflict. He explained that Moscow acts not “for the sake of the regime or any person inside of at the top of this regime” but for the sake of the Syrians. The minister noted it was Russia’s aim to stop suffering and uphold the basic principles of international law - such as national sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs.

Syrian rebels raise their weapons under a pre-Baath Syrian flag currently used by the opposition during an anti-regime protest in the northern city of Aleppo on March 22, 2013. (AFP Photo)

The fate of Assad is one of the main stumbling blocks in international efforts to bring the two-year long civil war in Syria to an end. While the US and other western powers insist the Syrian leader should step down, Moscow maintains that it is up to Syrian people to decide on that and that Assad’s resignation should not be a precondition for peace negotiations.

A new round of international talks on Syria is expected to take place in June. The fresh plans were announced by Lavrov and his American counterpart John Kerry after their meeting in Moscow on May 7. The conference will serve as a follow up to last year’s gathering in Geneva that led to the drafting of a peace plan known as the Geneva communiqué.

The joint initiative has been welcomed by Assad’s government and international players such as the UK and France. Syria's key National Coalition opposition group is scheduled to meet in Istanbul on May 23 to discuss the proposal.   

Lavrov noted that in Russia’s view, representatives of all the Syrian opposition forces should take part in the talks. “

It is crucially important to know the unified opinion and position of all the opponents of the Syrian government and a team of negotiators which would represent all the opposition, ” the diplomat underlined.

I wouldn’t exclude anyone [from the participation in the forum] except for terrorists. Such as, for instance, the Al-Nusra Front listed as terror group by the US. Its leaders openly say that they get orders from Al-Qaeda ,” the Russian minister noted. He explained that when referring to the opposition “

we talk about political – even armed – opposition but with understanding that there should be no place for terrorists at the negotiating table .”  

In Moscow’s opinion Syria’s neighbors and other countries of the region, including Jordan, Lebanon and Iran, should also take part in the forum.