Do your “homework” on Syria: Sergey Lavrov tells the West

Lavrov expressed his confidence that the forthcoming presidency of Russia in the G8 “would create another opportunity to urge the world’s key players to agree on the key rules for conflict resolution.” Source: RG

Lavrov expressed his confidence that the forthcoming presidency of Russia in the G8 “would create another opportunity to urge the world’s key players to agree on the key rules for conflict resolution.” Source: RG

The Russian Foreign Minister called on America and its allies to deal with the conflicts, rather than their symptoms.

On Monday, November 18, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov called on western countries to do their “homework” on Syria and have a broader outlook towards peace in the civil war-torn country. 

At a business breakfast at the editorial office of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Lavrov talked to reporters about the preparations for the Geneva-2 Peace Conference on Syria, and the new round of talks on the Iran nuclear issue.

The minister noted the good level of cooperation with his American counterparts, and the progress in preparations for the Geneva-2. He however also said that demands for “protected humanitarian corridors” were still a problem. “All this is very similar to long-standing requests for the creation of such corridors, for the creation of no-fly zones, without the consent of Syrian government, so that humanitarian supplies could be delivered via these corridors from the outside,” Lavrov said.

He made it clear that he considered such requirements hypocritical: “I have a very simple question to the initiators of creating such corridors. You supply weapons and ammunition, and at the same time, you are lamenting that these areas are occupied by the rebels, that the humanitarian supplies do not arrive, and the civilian population keeps suffering. Well then, deliver humanitarian supplies via these corridors”. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said that, in the opinion of international humanitarian agencies, “at this stage, the major problems are being caused by the militants.”

There are problems on the part of some Western participants of the process. Lavrov criticized the attempts of some countries “to give responses to symptoms of the conflict the top priority”, for example, to discuss the issue of sexual violence in the conflict, instead of discussing ways to settle these conflicts. In his opinion, “this means that the international community allows the continuation of the bloodiest crises, and is ready only to mitigate the humanitarian consequences.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs said that in 2005, Russia proposed to agree on a list of criteria that had to be observed when dealing with any conflict: “Our proposal set forth the fundamental principles: for example, we proposed that any conflict had to be resolved only on the basis of a national dialogue, involving all political, ethnic and religious groups. There must not be any interference from the outside, territorial integrity must be respected, as well as the sovereignty of the relevant state. And the problems of civilians must always come first.”

Lavrov expressed his confidence that the forthcoming presidency of Russia in the G8 “would create another opportunity to urge the world’s key players to agree on the key rules for conflict resolution.”

In particular, the issue is that one must not cooperate with terrorists, but during the Arab Spring, some countries did so, “guided not by the interests of global and regional security, but by their own geopolitical considerations.  “Consider Libya, where NATO intervened and provided arms to opponents of Gaddafi’s regime. And now, the opponents of Gaddafi, after they murdered him quite brutally, are creating problems in Mali, Chad and the Central African Republic,” Lavrov added.

As for the prospects of participation of the Syrian opposition in the talks, Lavrov expressed a cautious optimism: “We have the feeling that gradually the position of those, who perceived the very idea of political regulation with hostility at first, and relied exclusively on a military solution, will become more realistic. At least if you compare the positions held one year ago, then the difference is ‘night and day’. So we will continue our work.”

However,  Lavrov complained that the National Coalition still had no “constructive program for Syria, on the basis of which they would built their election campaigns”, they are just calling for the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad. According to the minister, there is a chance to have the Geneva-2 held by the end of this year, but a lot will depend on how our Western partners “will do their ‘homework’ to convince the opposition to give up their pre-conditions.”

Iran

The Russian minister also spoke about the progress of negotiations on the Iran nuclear issue. He confirmed that there “was a document that was discussed, and there were amendments to this document” in the recent talks in Geneva.

Lavrov praised Tehran’s stand in the negotiations: “The steps that Iran is ready to commit to, as its obligations, are very significant and go in the direction of the requirements of the international community. And this is being done at a much faster pace than was expected.”

The minister was quick to rebuff those who criticized the agreement being prepared, and who called it “a historic mistake.” Lavrov said that Iran in Geneva “was ready to go faster and further than the steps it was urged to make by the group of ‘three plus three’ at the beginning of this year.” He added that those who suspect Russia and the other negotiating parties of leaving the door open for nuclear proliferation do not “respect our intellectual abilities and our firm political principles.”

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