Russia: Demands for Assad's ouster hinder peace efforts

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [PHOTO: SANA]

Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is blaming Syria's opposition for hindering efforts to end that country's violent internal conflict.

At a news briefing in Moscow on January 23, Lavrov blamed the Syrian opposition for disrupting peace efforts.

"The main obstacle is the obsessive desire of the [Syrian] opposition to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime. As long as this uncompromising position remains, nothing good will happen," Lavrov said.

Lavrov also claimed "several Western countries and several Middle Eastern countries" were responsible for the Syrian opposition's inflexible stance.

"The [Syrian] opposition continues to reject dialogue categorically and has chosen the path of armed struggle. Our partners in the action group, regrettably, encourage [the Syrian opposition] on this path and provide them with everything necessary for continuing this struggle," Lavrov said.

"So, there have not been any attempts to bring the parties to the negotiating table. Only we and our Chinese colleagues have attempted to do it."

Lavrov said Russia is not attempting to push any geopolitical goals in its approach to the Syrian conflict.

"We are not interested in any further destabilization of the Mediterranean region and our navy's presence there is a stabilizing factor for the situation in the region," Lavrov said.

He added that Moscow's major interest is in "stopping the bloodshed, and saving the lives of Syrian people." 

Lavrov also spoke about the evacuation of 77 Russian nationals, 27 of them reportedly children, from Syria.

Moscow sent two planes to Beirut on January 22 to pick up the group of Russian citizens who arrived in Lebanon by bus from Syria.

But Lavrov said that fewer people than they anticipated wanted to return to Russia.

"When we first asked, about 1,000 [Russian] women said they were interested], but when the opportunity presented itself, with recent Emergency Situations Ministry flights, fewer than 100 women were ready to use this opportunity," Lavrov said.

Lavrov said Russia has no plans to reduce its staff at the Russian Embassy in Syria.

Tajikistan's government has requested the Russian Foreign Ministry help evacuate its nationals from Syria Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Davlat Nazriev said there were still some 30 Tajik citizens in Syria.

Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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