Russia won't tell Assad to go, sees flexibility among his foes

MOSCOW Fri Mar 8, 2013 6:28am EST

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at a news conference after a meeting of the Russia-Arab cooperation forum in Moscow February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at a news conference after a meeting of the Russia-Arab cooperation forum in Moscow February 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

Related Topics

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will "absolutely not" tell Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down to end the civil war and make way for a political transition, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in comments published on Friday.

The remarks to the BBC were a reiteration of Moscow's position that Assad's exit must not be a precondition for a negotiated solution to the two-year-old conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people.

Asked whether there was a chance that Russia would tell Assad he should step down for the sake of a peace agreement, Lavrov replied: "Absolutely not. You know that we're not in the regime-change game."

"We are against interference in domestic conflicts. And this is our position, which should be of no surprise to anyone," he said, according to an English-language version of his comments posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

Lavrov said Assad had repeatedly said he was not going to leave.

"All those who get in touch with him know that he is not bluffing, and that he is prepared to discuss any issue - among the Syrians."

Russia has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions meant to push Assad out or press him to end violence, a position that has set it against Western and Arab nations which say he must leave power.

Lavrov said he saw signs of flexibility.

"I'm glad that the latest discussions and the latest gestures from the opposition, and statements from some of those who support the opposition, hint that they would be prepared to start negotiations with some negotiating team without asking President Assad to step down," he was quoted as saying.

Lavrov spoke before a visit to London next week for the first meeting under the auspices of a new "strategic dialogue" between Russia and Britain. Syria is among the issues on the agenda for the talks on Wednesday between the two countries' foreign and defense ministers.

The Kremlin and the U.S. government have spoken recently of the need to step up efforts to end the war and start a political transition but several meetings - including one in London on Thursday between senior Russian and U.S. diplomats - have brought few signs of progress.

(Reporting by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
Tiu wrote:
The perpetrators of the Syrian “uprising” will have some music to face no doubt.

Mar 08, 2013 6:52am EST  --  Report as abuse
kenradke11 wrote:
Russia can kiss my butt. They have blood on their hand for allowing a deranged dictator like Assad to carry on. Forget about their damned veto powers! Take Assad out NOW!

Mar 08, 2013 7:16am EST  --  Report as abuse
nirvichara wrote:
Why should Russia tell legitimate government to go ?

US and Sauidi have blood on their hand by supporting AlQuiada killers that US trying to portrait as “freedom fighters”.

So, I guess , they should kiss Asad’s and Russia’s asses together with the braindead kenradke11

Mar 08, 2013 11:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Pictures