The US must choose whether it wants to stage a peace conference on Syria or keep fueling the rebels’ hopes of victory as it’s impossible to do both things at the same time, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said.
Lavrov told Bloomberg that Russia wants to understand if their
partners in America and the United Nations are really consistent
with the idea of the Geneva 2 conference on Syria as their
actions keep sending the wrong message to the country’s
The US and its European allies are considering arms supplies and a no-fly zone over Syria to help the rebels in their fight against the forces loyal to president, Bashar Assad.
“The message the opposition is getting: ‘Guys, don’t go to Geneva. Don’t say that you are going to negotiate with the regime. Soon things will change in your favor.’ So, that’s what we want to clarify. It’s either the conference or the instigation of the opposition not to be flexible. I don’t think it’s possible to do both at the same time,” Lavrov said.
The Foreign Minister reminded that Russia has been pushing for the peace solution “irrespective of the situation on the ground,” while the West started speaking of a conference only after Assad’s forces began advancing on the rebels.
“They weren’t ready to discuss it when many people believed that the opposition would take Damascus in recent weeks,” he stressed. “If now they’ll be moving in the direction of what some opposition leaders are saying – namely, let’s first restore military balance on the ground and then we’ll go the conference. This’ll be a disaster for all diplomatic efforts because this would never end.”
According to Lavrov, Russia, the US and the UN are currently working on the list of invitees to the Geneva 2 conference, with two key issues currently being unsolved.
The first problem is the representation of the rebels at the talks as “not each and every important opposition group wants to go under the umbrella of the [Syrian National] Coalition because” because it’s “taking quite radical positions” and doesn’t have any vision for the country’s future.
The FM also said that “the most effective military group fighting the regime in Syria”, the Jabhat al-Nusra, isn’t going to be invited to the talks at all.
“It’s not for them to decide whether they’ll come to the conference or not. They can’t be even considered. They are terrorists and they must be treated as terrorists,” he explained.
The second problem with the invitees’ list is the participation of foreign states in the Geneva 2 conference.
“We’re absolutely convinced that all Arab neighbors of Syria must be invited,” Lavrov said. “And Iran must be there that’s something, which I believe is absolutely unavoidable if we want the process, which is inclusive, and if we want all important outside players to be there to push the Syrians to an agreement. And so far there are doubts on the part of the US regarding the invitation of Iran and, I believe, this is delaying.”
The Russian FM once again warned the US against arming the rebels, but said that weapons are “anyway” coming to Syria.
“And if you take stock of what is being used by the opposition you would find a lot of arms shipped by the West, including the US, to the Gulf countries and to other countries in the region,” he stressed. “So, this smuggling continues and this is very dangerous. Because the leading opposition force on the ground is very extremist.”
The Geneva 2 conference is designed to be a follow-up to the last year’s international meeting in Geneva that drafted a peace roadmap for Syria.
It was originally planned to take place in mid-June, with no new date for the event being announced so far.
With the death toll rising to over 90,000 people, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, agreed that diplomacy offers the best solution to the Syrian conflict during their talks at the G8 summit this week.