Syria crisis: Russia won't pressure Assad, says Lavrov


Sergei Lavrov: "It is not for us to decide who should lead Syria. It is for the Syrians to decide"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says there is "absolutely" no chance of Moscow telling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stand down.

He told the BBC that Russia was not in the "regime-change game".

The main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, has long insisted that President Assad must go before any talks take place.

Mr Lavrov is due to visit London next week for talks with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Both countries say the Syrian crisis will top the agenda. Russia has traditionally been a close ally of the Syrian government and is the country's biggest arms supplier.

But while there is agreement that a negotiated settlement is the best way forward, Mr Lavrov told the BBC there was no question of Russia asking President Assad to stand aside.

"I can only say it is not for us to decide who should lead Syria. It is for the Syrians to decide," he said.

Asked if there was any chance of Russia urging President Assad to stand aside, he said: "Absolutely not. You know that we are not in the regime-change game. We are against interference in domestic conflicts."

Mr Lavrov added that this was a point of principle and that, in any case, President Assad has no intention of resigning.

Asked if there was any common ground between Britain and Russia on Syria, Mr Lavrov said: "I don't think we are far apart as far as the eventual goal is concerned. We both want Syria to be united, to be democratic. We both want the Syrian people to choose freely the way they would like to run their country.

"That has been the Russian position... since the crisis started."

Damage in Homs. 7 March 2013 The conflict has caused destruction in large parts of Syria's cities, like here in Homs

Mr Lavrov said he welcomed some of the "constructive elements" in the recent position of the Syrian National Coalition.

"The leader of the coalition has been speaking about his interest in dialogue," Mr Lavrov said.

"The government reiterated its readiness to do the same including with those who are fighting on the ground. I believe we must encourage this trend on both sides."

He said he would be discussing such developments in detail with William Hague.

"Unless we all act in sync, telling the parties we don't want any military solution, that we don't want any further loss of Syrian lives, that we want them to start negotiating in earnest... this crisis will continue and more blood will be shed," he said.

The UN estimates that about 70,000 people have died since the uprising against President Assad began nearly two years ago.

The UN also says about one million Syrians have now fled abroad, and some 2.5 million have been forced from their homes inside the country.

On Thursday the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said Syria's healthcare system had been wrecked by the conflict.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    I used to think the US and UK poodles were the good guys. But I've realised how forced regime change on Iraq and Afghanistan have created more suffering for the people. We need to remember that Bashar al-Assad still has support of half the country. Any peace negotiations have to involve him if there is to be lasting peace!!! Russia is right to put the brakes on the west to force regime change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    What a stale-mate! Russia is not prepared to throw its weight behind peace efforts! How can the world be a safer place? By giving dictators a free hand, allowing them to abuse their own citizens, Russia is showing total lack of good judgement. Assad has been been given a new lease of life just because Russia is not prepared to urge Assad to comply with UN resolutions. INTRANSIGENCE to the core.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    It's too much to expect that Russia will show any responsibility.They,together with China,could have stepped in months ago and controlled or removed their puppet dictator and saved tens of thousands of lives.There is also too little action or influence from the Arab world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Russian dont do regime change............unless it will benefit them in the long run just like the USA and UK do! Altho we should stay well clear of the syrian crisis. We cant afford it.


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