Russia won't discuss Syria's future
Jun 15, 2012 / 5:53 am
Russia's foreign minister said Friday that Moscow isn't discussing Syria's future without President Bashar Assad as Washington has claimed, in the latest volley in a contentious back-and-forth on how to end the bloody conflict.
SergeLavrov denied Thursday's statement by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland that Moscow and Washington "are continuing to talk about a post-Assad transition strategy."
Lavrov, who met with the State Department's No. 2 official William Burns in Kabul on Thursday, maintained that Russia believes it's up to the Syrians to determine their country's future and said foreign players shouldn't meddle.
"It's not true that we are discussing Syria's fate after Bashar Assad," Lavrov said following talks in Moscow with his Iraqi counterpart. "We aren't dealing with a regime change either through approving unilateral actions at the United Nations Security Council nor through taking part in some political conspiracies."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has issued increasingly harsh words over Russia's refusal to take tougher measures on Syria, though her accusation that Russia "dramatically" escalated the crisis in Syria lost steam Thursday when the State Department acknowledged the helicopters she accused Moscow of sending were actually refurbished ones already owned by the Assad regime.
The claim had complicated the Obama administration's larger goals for Syria and U.S.-Russia relations.
Despite pressure from the West, Russia, along with China, has twice shielded Syria, its last remaining ally in the Arab world, from international sanctions over Assad's violent crackdown on protests that have left 13,000 people dead, according to opposition groups.
Lavrov argued that an international conference on Syria that Russia has proposed should focus on persuading the Syrian parties to sit down for talks. He said that a June 30 meeting on Syria in Geneva proposed by U.N. and Arab League envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, should pursue the same goal, warning that Russia would oppose any attempt to use the conference to determine Syria's future.
"This meeting should be aimed at mobilizing resources that foreign players have to create conditions needed to start an all-Syrian political process, not to predetermine its direction."
He warned against using the conference to "justify any future unilateral actions."
Lavrov said that Russia believes that a conference on Syria it's proposing should bring together the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council along with all Syria's neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Arab League, the European Union and Iran.
In an apparent reference to the U.S. objections against Iran's participation, Lavrov said the conference organizers should be driven by a desire to settle the conflict, not "ideological preferences."
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