Lavrov rules out Russia's involvement in armed conflict in Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has ruled out Russia's involvement in an armed conflict in Syria and stressed that, by maintaining military-technological cooperation with Damascus, Moscow did not seek to support any forces inside Syria.

"Surely, Russia's involvement in the armed conflict is just out of the question. The Russian naval logistics center in Tartus is functioning as usual," Lavrov said in answering a question from the newspaper Argumenty i Fakty, published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

"The years of our military-technological cooperation serve primarily to promote stability in the Middle East and have never been aimed at supporting any forces on the internal Syrian arena," he said.

"We are categorically against external interference in what is happening in Syria, especially with the use of force. We are doing all we can to stop bloodshed and get the parties sitting at the negotiating table so that Syrians themselves agree upon parameters of their country's future political organization," he said.

This is precisely what the leading states agreed upon at a meeting in Geneva on June 30, 2012, Lavrov said.

"In order to implement these agreements, we are working closely with both the government and all opposition groups. We believe that all other external players that have influence on Syrian affairs should also urge all parties to implement the approach agreed upon at the Geneva meeting," he said.

"If, instead of doing this, war till the victorious end against the Bashar al-Assad's regime is encouraged, this could only worsen sufferings of the Syrian people and complicate the situation in the Middle East region, which is already explosive," he said.

"The conflict between the authorities and the opposition in Syria has been continuing for 20 months now. The combat actions are becoming increasingly fiercer and are leading to new casualties. Quite a lot of extremists, foreign mercenaries, and terrorists linked to al-Qaeda have appeared among the opponents to the regime. Disagreements separating the Sunnis and the Shiites are becoming deeper and deeper. The danger of the crisis' spread over the neighboring states is causing serious concerns," he said.

Lavrov pointed out that quite a large Russian diaspora lived in Syria before the hostilities began. "A lot of our citizens have had to return to Russia. But thousands of Russians are remaining there. We are carefully following the situation and will announce any changes affecting interests of Russian citizens. Their security is in the focus of our attention," he said.

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