Nothing will improve with the situation in Syria while the opposition is possessed with the idea of ousting President Bashar Assad, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
He is speaking at the annual press-coference summing up the state of international affairs for the past year
You can watch Lavrov's press conference live.
“I repeat: everything ends with the opposition’s obsession with ousting Assad. As long as this intransigent attitude remains in force, nothing good will happen. The fighting will continue and people will die,” Lavrov said.
“Some countries of the West and the Middle East welcomed creation of the opposition coalition. When we asked our partners why they have chosen an attitude that rejects dialogue, we were told that the main task is to unite the opposition, and once that’s done, the Western countries taking part in the settlement of the Syrian crisis will talk the opposition into taking a more constructive position,” said the minister.
But that never happened, he explained, saying that “there were no attempts to call the sides to negotiation table,” despite efforts by Russia, China, UN special envoy Kofi Annan and another envoy, Lahdar Brahimi, who replaced Annan.
For Russian foreign politics, preserving or deposing President Bashar Assad’s regime is not a priority, Lavrov pointed out. The settlement of the Syrian crisis means putting an immediate halt to the fighting to stop the bloodshed and stabilize the situation in Syria.
“Our priority is not reaching some kind of a geopolitical goal, which ousting the existing regime [in Syria] definitely is,” Lavrov said. He pointed out that for the external players of the Syrian crisis “priorities seem to differ from those declared.”
“We openly speak with [our Western partners]. They verbally agree with us, saying they realize the threats of the collapse of the Syrian state in the perspective. But when they go to the public, they say things that differ from those previously said by them in private,” Lavrov revealed.
Lavrov also shared his belief that the presence of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean Sea guarantees stability in the region. Lavrov called the navy war games the Russian fleet is conducting right now in the Mediterranean an ordinary event and promised that such drills will happen regularly in the future.
Russia is not going to evacuate its citizens from Syria, but if anybody decides to leave the country, Russian Emergencies Ministry jets can take them on their way back to Russia since they deliver humanitarian help to Syria regularly, Lavrov informed.
So far only 77 people, including 27 children, have decided to leave for Russia, though previously about 1,000 women with their children expressed interest in flying to Moscow.
“We cannot start a mass evacuation since there are tens of thousands of Russian citizens, mostly women who married Syrians,” Russian FM said.
According to official data 8,008 Russian citizens have registered in the consulate in Damascus, but the real number could be as high as 25,000.
Sergey Lavrov said Russia has no plans to close its embassy in the Syrian capital.
“The embassy is functioning properly, fulfilling the task of being in contact with both the Syrian leadership and the opposition,” Lavrov said.
He recalled that the families of the diplomats and some secondary personnel left the country quite some time ago, which was the right decision since it is not safe in Syria.